Officer Tells About Discovery Of Body of Girl in Basement
July 30th, 1913
Sergeant L. S. Dobbs, one of the policemen who answered Lee’s call to the factory, was put on the stand, after Lee was dismissed.
He told of the call at about 3:20 a. m. on April 27, and of how he and Officers Anderson and Brown, with “Boots” Rogers, an ex-county policeman, and Britt Craig, of The Constitution, went to the factory and found the body.
The officer declared, among other things, that Lee was not frightened or trembling when they got there, that they had difficulty in telling at first whether the girl was white or black, and that Lee had interrupted his reading of the note when he reached the word “night” by saying, “Boss, that’s me.”
Sergeant Dobbs went into detail about the cord around the girl’s neck, and also the torn piece of underclothing tied loosely around the neck over the cord. He declared that the rope and piece of cloth exhibited were very similar to those he saw that morning, but would not swear they were the identical ones.
Knew She Was White.
“I couldn’t tell at first whether the girl was white or black, and had to turn her over,” he stated, “and when I saw her white skin on her body where her clothes were torn and when I brushed the dust off her face, I knew she was white.
“There was some blood on the back of her head and it was dry on the outside, and moist near the skull where I placed my hand,” he continued. “A cord was tired so tightly around the neck that it had cut into the flesh and over that a piece of underclothing was tied, but it was not at all tight.
“I accused Lee of doing it or of knowing who did,” the officer went on, “and I looked around and saw a couple of notes after I had poked this stick of mine into the sawdust. They read about like this—“
He had started to repeat the notes when the solicitor stopped him and it was at this point that he testified that the cord and piece of cloth exhibited were very similar to those he had seen that morning.
“There was not much blood about the hair,” he replied in answer to the solicitor.
“Was it moist or dry?”
“Dry on the outside and moist near over to tell whether she was white the roots of the hair where I put my hands.”
“Was it a damp or dry place where you found the body?”
“Well, rather damp.”
Identifies Murder Notes.
Dobbs then identified the murder notes and also the scratchpad which he found near the body, one note at the foot and another near the girl’s head.
“Did you know who this girl was?”
“No; but I learned later she was Mary Phagan.”
He then was made to go into detail about the position of the body and of how he poked around in the sawdust with his cane in search of some evidence.
Then the officer told of sending Lee to jail and declared that Lee was not excited but was cool. Solicitor Dorsey then had the officer go into detail about the drawing, and Mr. Rosser made strenuous objections to this, but Dorsey won his point and Sergeant Dobbs finally declared that the drawing was perfect as far as he knew.
Mr. Rosser then took up the cross-examination and asked a number of questions about the picture, making the officer look away from it while answering. The attorney seemed to be doing his best to discredit the drawing.
“Was Lee excited?” he suddenly queried.
“Could you tell if the girl was white or black right at once?”
“No, I could not.”
“Didn’t you have to turn the body or black?”
Reason for Questions.
Lee had previously testified that when he saw the body and got close enough to convince himself that it was really the body of a person and not a dummy placed there by some boys to frighten him that he could tell by the “frizzy hair and white spots on the face” that she was a white girl, and the attorney seemed to wish to start proof that Lee had either approached much closer to the body than he had said he did, or else knew something more about the affair than he had told.
Mr. Rosser then made Dobbs go over the detail of finding the notes and also of finding the girl’s missing shoe and hat and of the fact that the ribbon upon the hat was gone when he found it.
“Did the body look like it had been dragged and did there show any traces on the ground where it might have been dragged?” asked Mr. Rosser.
“Yes, sir, the body looked somewhat like it had been dragged by the feet and with the face down and I thought I found evidence of where something like a body had been dragged from the elevator shaft to the place where the body lay.”
Did Not Appear Excited.
Mr. Rosser again took up the question of whether or not the officer believed Lee was excited when he came in. Again Dobbs declared Lee did not appear excited.
“From where Lee showed you he first saw the body, could it really have been seen?”
“I think so.”
“Didn’t you swear before the grand jury,” said the attorney, probably meaning the coroner’s jury, “that Lee could not have seen the body from where he told you he did see it?”
Sergeant Dobbs declared that he did not believe that he had said that before the coroner’s jury.
“I thought I saw marks where a body had been dragged from the elevator shaft to where the dead girl lay,” he answered to the next question.
Produces Stenographic Report.
Here Mr. Rosser again produced the stenographic report of the coroner’s hearing and declared that according to it the officer had declared that he did not see the marks of where a body had been dragged began directly in front of the shaft.
As Lee had previously stuck out against what the stenographer had transcribed, so did the officer, and despite the production of the sworn notes of the court stenographer, the officer held to his original statement and declared that he had at first declared that the marks of a body being dragged had begun in front of the shaft and that he had said that all along.
Sergeant Dobbs then told of finding the staple pulled off the back door of the basement and the bar being pulled back. He was again made to go into detail in regard to reading the notes to the night watchman and swore that Lee had interrupted with, “That’s me, boss,” when he reached word “night” in reading the note.
After he had gone into more detail about the girl’s clothes and the torn or cut condition in which they were found, court adjourned until 2 o’clock.