- Mar 23, 2019
The case of Leo Frank has gone down in history as one of the more famous cases of a miscarriage of justice occurring. On April 27th of 1913, 13-year-old Mary Phagan was strangled and her body was found in an Atlanta pencil factory. The owner of the factory, Leo Frank, became the top suspect, in part due to his Jewish heritage leading to an anti-Semitic hate coming through in some people. Frank had recently laid off Phagan from her job at the factory due to a shortage of raw materials. The rumors swirled that Frank had actually done so due to having his romantic advances rebuffed. Two notes, supposedly in Phagan’s hand writing, were found by Phagan’s body that seemed to implicate a factory guard named Newt Lee as being involved with Phagan’s demise. Bloody clothes were later found at Lee’s residence. The detectives eventually decided that the clothes had been planted by Frank. Lee’s time card was also missing punches that indicated Lee was away from his post around the time of the murder.
Janitor Jim Conley was also suspected of aiding in the crime. When in custody he was given a spelling test and he misspelled the same words as the letter writer of the notes had. Conley was arrested along with the guard and Leo Frank. Frank would ultimately be the only one who saw the inside of a courtroom.
Frank was charged with Phagan’s murder and was sentenced to die via the gallows. Frank never wavered on his innocence and appealed the ruling. One day before he was scheduled to die the governor of Georgia granted Frank a sentence of life imprisonment instead. This outraged a number of people and on August 16th a lynch mob formed and forced themselves into the penitentiary where Frank was being held. They snatched Frank from his cell and dragged him to a spot near Phagan’s home. The following morning Frank was murdered by being hung from a tree. Despite promises from law enforcement, none of the lynch mob was ever charged in the crime.
Frank’s innocence was not proven until several decades later when a witness finally spoke up and said he had seen the janitor, Jim Conley, carrying Phagan’s lifeless body into the factory’s basement. Frank was formally cleared in 1986 when the Georgia State Board of Pardons awarded him a posthumous pardon.
High school guidance counselor Mary Depue had a volatile relationship with her husband Dennis. After years of unhappiness, Mary finally filed for divorce. Dennis was enraged and his wife took the blunt of his fury. He attacked her in front of their children and ultimately tossed her down a flight of stairs. He then dragged his obviously injured wife past their children and shoved her in a van, declaring to them he was going to take Mary and seek medical assistance. That was the farthest thing from what Dennis intended to do.
He was next seen flying down a county road in the van, passing an older couple out for a drive. A little while later, that same couple passed an old school house and saw the same van parked in the lot – it’s driver was seen walking in the back yard of the school, carrying what appeared to be a bloody sheet.
A few minutes later the same van once again came roaring behind the couple, only this time the driver tailgated the pair for several miles before they became nervous and turned down a side road. The van stopped and pulled over, and that allowed the couple to bravely turn around and double back towards their pursuer in order to acquire his license plate number. When they drove by him, they could see he was changing his license plate and they also noticed the van’s passenger door was open, and to their horror, they could see it was covered in blood.
The couple now knew something sinister was amiss and they returned back to the school yard to investigate. Once there, the pair quickly found a partially disclosed blanket, soaked in blood. The duo then scurried off to contact the police.
Mary’s body was found behind an abandoned church. She had been killed via a gunshot to the back of the head. The culprit was obvious and Dennis was on the run. Unsolved Mysteries aired the case 11 months later.
Millions of eyes took in the visage of evil incarnate. One set of those eyes belonged to the perpetrator himself, Dennis Depue – now living in Dallas under the assumed name of Hank Queen. He quickly told his new girlfriend a cover story and went back on the run. Others who knew “Hank” had already contacted the police however and law enforcement was able to track him as he veered into Mississippi.
Depue had no intention of going down easy. The pursuing officers shot out one of his tires, and that failed to stop his van. Another tire was shot out, and Dennis kept on attempting the escape. He ultimately rammed into two police vehicles before firing three or four shots at police officers who made haste towards his stalled van.
Another tell tale shot was heard coming from inside the vehicle, this one found its mark – a self-inflicted bullet into Depue’s mouth that exited the back of his head. An unsatisfactory ending for those who desire hard justice and one that hardly mends the emotional wounds already perpetrated onto the Depue children.
The Unsolved Mysteries re-enactment of this case was done so chillingly well that the makers of the horror movie “Jeepers Creepers” took the idea directly from the show and implemented it into their own story.