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This Day in Georgia History

May 18, 1913

Newspaper Report on Conley Arrest

Thomas Felder claimed to have turned a new piece of evidence in the Mary Phagan case, but it was not revealed to the public. The Atlanta Constitution also reported that Atlanta police were questioning a new suspect in the case and had asked him for handwriting samples. The new suspect was identified as “James Connolly” [actually Conley], a sweeper at the factory, who had been arrested “several days earlier” [actually on May 1] when he was discovered rinsing a soiled shirt at the pencil factory. The stains on the shirt turned out to be blood. Jim Conley would turn out to be the prosecution’s lead witness in its case against Leo Frank. However, Conley was also the man who in fact committed the murder - according to Alonzo Mann, a thirteen year old employee of the factory. Mann, in a story he did not tell until 1982, claimed he saw Conley carrying Phagan’s body at the factory that day; Conley threatened Mann with death if he ever was to report what he had seen. Mann’s mother advised him to keep quiet, which he did for almost seventy years.