Eyewitness to Phagan Slaying Sought
Tuesday, June 10th, 1913
Story That Companion of Conley Saw Him Strike Down Girl Opens New Clews.
Jim Conley, whose sensational story has made him an accessory after the fact in the murder of Mary Phagan, is sticking closely to the details he unfolded in his remarkable affidavit, according to his attorney, William M. Smith.
Mr. Smith said Tuesday morning that Conley has varied in no essential particular from the original tale of his part in the disposal of the body of the strangled girl, under the direction of Leo Frank. To Mr. Smith and others who have interviewed the negro in the last few days he has begun at the moment when he says he saw the little form lying limp and inert at the rear of the second floor, until he declares he wrote the mysterious notes at Frank’s dictation in the National Pencil factory office.
In all his story there has been practically no conflict or contradiction with the affidavit to which he swore before the detectives after a half day’s grilling. Mr. Smith said he believed his client was telling the whole truth.
Actual Witness Sought.
Despite the unshakable story of Conley, as he told it after making previous statements admittedly lies, a rumor has been in persistent circulation since last week that the detectives were seeking an actual witness to the crime. It is said such a person exists, and that he is a negro who shot craps with Conley in the basement of the factory on the day of the murder.
The rumor has it that this negro won all of Conley’s money, and that he saw Conley in a half-drunken fury strike down the little Phagan girl when she came down the stairs of the factory with her silver mesh bag in her hands.
Although it is reported that this negro has been apprehended and is even now in custody in Atlanta, the authorities deny any knowledge of such a person. Attorneys for Frank will admit only that they have heard of such rumors, but they assert that they have no definite knowledge of the arrest of a negro who is said to have been an actual witness of the killing. It is understood, however, that they believe there is such a person. They are confident that Conley committed the horrible deed and that he had a witness or accomplice.
Leo Frank Still Silent.
Through all of the conflicting stories to which the excitement of the hunt for the slayer have given rise, Leo Frank has remained silent, his original story told before the Coroner’s jury undisturbed and uncontradicted in any detail. While the detectives have torn Conley’s first stories to shreds, they have be[e]n unable, so far as the public knows, to find a single misstatement in the story made by Frank at the inquest.
Since then, on the injunction of his counsel, Frank has had no comment to make. Stories have been spread that were most damaging to his general character but he has remained mute. He has told his friends that he will have a story to tell at the proper time and that it will be so fully substantiated that there will be no doubt of his innocence.
Frank has made no public announcement of the fact, but it is known that he privately has signified his willingness to confront Conley and listen to the negro’s story, and to repeat his own, if desired. His only stipulation is that the meeting shall not be in the nature of one of the star chamber sessions at police headquarters, at which the detectives only are present. Frank would insist that certain public officers be present so that there would be no opportunity for the manufacture of evidence colored in any particular. With these men present, he has said that he would be willing to be questioned as freely as he was at the Coroner’s inquest.