Cook Repudiates Entire Affidavit Police Possess
Thursday, June 5th, 1913
Utter repudiation of the affidavits which she was alleged to have sworn to incriminating conversations in the home of Leo M. Frank, indicted for the slaying of Mary Phagan, was made Thursday by Minola McKnight, negro cook for the accused factory superintendent and his wife’s parents.
The woman denies absolutely every statement attributed to her by the police, and denies that she even signed the paper made public by the police.
The Georgian presented the McKnight affidavit to its readers with the distinct admonition that it must not be accepted as credible evidence until passed on in a court of law. The affidavit was so full of strange incoherencies and the need for some explanation was so apparent that a further investigation was decided upon.
The cook’s statement, giving the case a new and startling turn, is therefore presented just as the police affidavit was—for what it is worth and not as evidence. It is an utter and absolute repudiation of the affidavit printed Wednesday and which purported to have been signed and sworn to by her.
She denied unequivocally that she had made the startling statements in the alleged affidavit which might send Leo Frank to the gallows could their truth be established beyond a doubt.
Repudiates Whole Affidavit.
She repudiated the alleged affidavit as a whole and in detail. She made her denials willingly and emphatically. There was no hesitation in her replies. Her first comment on the alleged affidavit constituted a complete and absolute denial of its truth.
Her statements were made at her home in the rear of 351 Pulliam Street. Only her husband, Albert McKnight, and the Georgian reporter were present. No member of the Frank family was about to influence her replies in any manner. If any influence could have been exerted it would be supposed to have been in the opposite direction, as it was her husband who was said indirectly to have furnished the information which resulted in her arrest and the three hours “third degree” in the office of Chief Lanford.
McKnight, however, furnished another sensation by declaring that he never had heard his wife say those things which he is reported to have told at the hardware shop of Beck & Gregg, and which resulted in her grilling.
Says She Had No Attorney.
The McKnight woman even went so far as to say that she had no attorney. Yet the affidavit she is alleged to have signed said:
“Q. You make it of your own free will and in the presence of Mr. Gordon, your attorney?
“A. Yes, sir.”
To The Georgian, the McKnight woman declared that she did not know who Mr. Gordon was.
“I ain’t got no lawyer, ‘cept God; He’s my lawyer,” she cried, raising her right hand toward heaven. “You jus’ put that in the paper. You jus’ tell them I ain’t got no lawyer, ‘cept God.”
“Did you sign any affidavit in the office of Chief Lanford?” was the first question that was asked the McKnight woman.
“No, sir, I never had a pen or pencil in my hand,” she replied.
“Most All Jack of Lies.”
“Have you read what this affidavit says as it was published in the papers?”
“It was read to me; I can’t read.”
“Is there anything in there that you said?”
“No, sir; it’s most all a pack of lies.”
“Where did they get all that stuff, then?”
“I don’t know, sir; I don’t know.”
The remainder of her statement, in effect, was:
I did not say that Frank was in the house only about ten minutes when he came home about 1:30 on the Saturday of the murder.
I did not say that I understood that a girl and Mr. Frank were caught at the office Saturday.
“I did not say that I heard Miss Lucil[l]e (Mrs. Frank) say that Frank was drunk Saturday night and made her sleep on the floor.
“I did not say that I heard Miss Lucille tell her mother that Mr. Frank had said that he was “in trouble and didn’t know the reason why he would murder,” and that he told his wife to get his pistol and let him kill himself.
I didn’t say they gave me extra money to keep me quiet.
I didn’t say that I made any affidavit in the presence of Mr. Gordon, my attorney.
The strange turn that has been given by the McKnight woman’s repudiation of the affidavit and her declaration that she never even had a pen or pencil in her hand adds fresh mystery to the hunt the detectives are making after the slayer of Mary Phagan.
Actions Appeal Peculiar.
That the woman would make statements most damaging to Frank and then calmly return to his home to work is peculiar in itself.
That she would make these statements and then, almost the moment she is at liberty, utterly repudiate them, is still more inexplicable.
Several explanations have been offered, but they are only guesses, at the best. The implication contained in the McKnight woman’s emphatic denial is that the testimony in the affidavit was manufactured by the detectives and not given by herself. It is regarded as unfair, however, to draw this inference, as it has to be taken in consideration that the McKnight woman is illiterate and that there was great opportunity for misunderstanding and confusion.
A still weightier consideration with others is contained in their declaration that there is no basis for the assumption that the detective force is after anyone but the guilty man or that they would “frame” evidence against any man.
McKnight Disavows All Accusations.
Another strange feature of this phase of the case is McKnight’s sudden change of attitude, if change there actually has been. It was reported that McKnight had informed persons at the Beck & Gregg hardware store that his wife had told him of conversations between Mrs. Frank and her mother that strongly indicated Frank’s guilt. To The Georgian McKnight said that he had done nothing of the kind.
He declared that his wife never had told him that she overheard Mrs. Frank tell her mother that Frank had said that he was in trouble and didn’t know the “reason why he would murder.”
He was plied with questions as to other statements in the affidavit until he finally said, half angrily:
“I told you she ain’t told me about anything at the Franks’ house—nothing at all. Just wait till she comes and she can tell you everything she said in two minutes.”
The McKnight woman said that she only bore out Frank’s own statements as to the approximate time that he arrived home Saturday afternoon and again in the evening.