Lizzie Borden’s Story
Lizzie Borden was born in Fall River, Massachusetts to Sarah Borden (1823 – 1863) and Andrew Jackson/ Borden (1822 – 1892). Andrew Borden grew up in a very simple household and strived financially as a young man. Eventually, he thrived in the manufacture and sale of furniture and caskets and became very rich. At the time of his demise, his estate was valued at around 300 000$ (nearly 8 170 000$ in 2017). Despite Andrew’s prosperity, he was very frugal, so the Borden house lacked indoor plumbing and electricity. Lizzie and her older sister, Emma Borden, had a very religious upbringing and Lizzie was very involved in Church activities when she was a youthful woman. Three years after Sarah Borden perished, Andrew Borden wedded Abby Durfee Gray (1828 – 1892) Lizzie was known to refer to her stepmother as Mrs Borden and opposed on whether or not they had a cordial relationship.
Lizzie also thought that Sarah was only after her father’s wealth. After a family argument in July 1892, Lizzie and Emma Borden both took extended “vacations” in New Bedford. Lizzie came back home only 1 week before the murders and chose to live in a Fall River rooming home until 4 days before the killings. The night before the killings, the sister’s uncle on their mum (Sarah Borden) side, toured the family home and was invited to stay for a few days. For many days before the killings, the whole family had been violently ill. It is known that Abby Borden feared poison as Andrew Borden was not a very famous man.
On the morning of August the 4th, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were killed. Abby was killed sometime between 9 am and 10:30 am and Andrew was killed sometime between 10:30 am and 11:10 am. • Abby Durfee Gray Borden: On the morning of August the 4th, Abby had gone upstairs to make the bed where John Morse had napped the night before. According to the forensic examination, she had been facing her murderer at the time of the assault. She had first been hit on the side of the head with an axe, which slash her above the ear and caused her to swivel and fall face down on the floor. This fall resulted in bruising and scrapes on her face. Then, her murderer hit her with the axe several times, 17 to be precise until she was dead. • Andrew Jackson Borden: After they had breakfast, Andrew and John Morse went to the sitting room and chatted for about an hour. Morse went to speak to a relative at about 8:48 am and Andrew left for his morning soon after, a little after 9 am. When he came back to the family home around 10:30 am, his key would not open the door, so he knocked on the door loudly. Their maid, Bridget Sullivan went to open the door and found it to be jammed. Bridget would assert that she could hear Lizzie chuckling instantly after discovering the door jammed, but that she could not glimpse her. She alleged the laughter was coming from the top of the stairs. This was deemed to be a very substantial piece of information, because Abby’s corpse was noticeable through the gap between the floor and the bed, when walking up the stairs, but was then hidden when you got to the top of the stair. Lizzie later refuted being upstairs at that time and testified that when her dad asked her where Abby was, she had answered that a messenger had delivered a summons to go attend a sick friend. Lizzie then stated that she had removed her dad’s boots and helped into his slippers (this is a little unusual because, in Andrew’s death picture, his shoes are visible). Then she told that she had told Bridget about a department store sale and had authorized her to go, but Bridget told she felt sick and went to lie down in her bedroom. Bridget Sullivan later declared that she was sleeping in her room when around 11:10 am, she listened to Lizzie call for her downstairs. Lizzie called out “Maggie, come quick! Dad’s dead, someone came in and murdered him!” (Lizzie always called Bridget “Maggie” which was the name of an earlier maid. Andrew was discovered slumped on the couch in the sitting room downstairs and had been hit 10 or 11 times with an axe. One of his eyeballs had been broken in two, which indicated that he had been assaulted while he was sleeping. His wounds were still bleeding, which indicated a very recent attack.
When replying to the police’s questions, Lizzie’s replies were at times contradictory. At first, she reported that she had listened to a groan, a scraping sound or a distress call while entering the home, but 2 hours later she told them that she had heard nothing and had entered the house not realizing anything was wrong. When she was asked where her stepmother was, she had said to them that Abby had gone to attend to a sick friend, but she also told that she thought she had come back and asked someone to go look for her upstairs. When Bridget Sullivan and a neighbour, Mrs Churchill, were halfway up the stairs, their eyes level with the floor, they saw Abby lying face down on the ground in the guest room. Many of the police officers told they disliked Lizzie’s behaviour, others told her she was too relaxed and poised. Despite all of this, no one worried to check Lizzie for bloodstains. Police did scour Lizzie’s room, but it was only a cursory search and they confessed that they had not appropriately searched her room. In the basement of the house, the police discovered two axes and an axe head with a damaged handle. The axe head was presumed of being the killing weapon, because the break appeared to be fresh and the ash and dust on it looked as if it had been intentionally placed there, to make it look as though it had been in the basement for a long period of time. Nonetheless, this equipment was not eliminated from the house. A friend of the sisters, Alice Russell, decided to stay with them, while John Morse expended the night in the attic guest room, contrary to later reports that asserted that he napped in the killing site guest room. Police were placed around the Borden house and later that night, an officer saw Lizzie bend over the pails, which contained her parent’s bloody clothes. This has never been clarified. On August 6th, the police performed a more comprehensive search of the house and confiscated the sisters clothing, and the damaged axe head. That exact evening, the police came back to the Borden house and told Lizzie that she was officially a suspect in the killings. The next morning, on August 7th, Alice Russell entered the kitchen and saw Lizzie tearing up a dress. Lizzie clarified that she wanted to put the dress in the fire because it was covered in paint. It has never been inferred if this was the dress Lizzie had been wearing on the day of the killings and if the dress had been covered in blood
On August 8th, Lizzie appeared at the inquest hearing. Her request to have her family attorney present was rejected. She had been prescribed formal doses of morphine by a doctor to steady her nerves, so her behaviour was probably testimony was affected by this. During the inquest, Lizzie’s attitude was erratic, and she frequently rejected to answer a question, even if the answer would be helpful to her. She contradicted herself quite a bit, first alleging she had been in the kitchen reading a magazine when her dad got home, then telling her she had been in the dining room doing some ironing, and eventually saying she had been coming down the stairs. She also said that she had taken off her dad’s boots and put his slippers on for him, even her dad’ death pictures showed that he was still wearing his boots. The district was very hostile and confrontational during the inquest. On August 11th, Lizzie was served with a warrant for arrest and detained. A grand jury started hearing the evidence on November 7th, and Lizzie was indicted on December 2nd.
The Trial: On the 5th of June, 1893, Lizzie’s trial took place in New Bedford. • Prominent Points in the Trial: o The shattered axe head had not been convincingly indicated to be the killing weapon. Prosecutors stated that the axe had been shattered because the handle was bloody. One officer alleged the handle had been discovered next to the axe head. Another officer rejected this. No bloody clothing was discovered (remember, Lizzie had burned a dress in the fire a few days after the killing because it was covered in “fresh paint”. Bridget Sullivan told she went upstairs around 10:58 am and left Andrew and Lizzie downstairs. Lizzie then stated that she went into the barn for “20 minutes or probably half an hour”. This was corroborated by Hyman Lubinsky, who told he saw Lizzie leaving the barn around 11:03 am and Charles Gardner who substantiated the time. Then, around 11:10 am Lizzie, called for Bridget to come downstairs. Lizzie also said Bridget not to go in the room, but to rather call a doctor. There had also been another axe killing nearby soon before the trial, but that perpetrator was out of town at the time of the Borden’s killings. Since the whole family had been sick the days before the killings, Abby and Andrew’s stomachs were tested for poison. None was discovered. Lizzie fainted when she saw Abby and Andrew’s heads, which had been eliminated for the autopsy. On the 20th of June, Lizzie was acquitted of the killings.
• Lizzie herself (obviously). One theory asserts that she committed the killings while in a fugue state. Another assumption states that she was physically and sexually harmed by her dad (there is little information to support this). • Bridget Sullivan. Maybe in anger at being told to clean the windows on a hot day, and while was still recovering from the mystery disease that had hit the household. • Ed McBain, a mystery writer recommended that she had killed her dad and stepmother after being caught in a lesbian tryst with Bridget Sullivan (again, very little information to support this). • A “William Borden” (Andrew’s illegitimate son) may have attempted, and failed to extort cash from his dad, and murdered Andrew and his wife in a rage. • Emma Borden could have returned for Fairhaven, Massachusetts privately, to commit the killings and then returned to receive the telegram, notifying her of the killings. • John Morse, Lizzie’s maternal uncle who very infrequently came to tour the family, but came to live with them the night before the killings. He was supposed a suspect by the police for a little while.