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Monday, November 2, 2009

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe...Or Did She?


Either Lizzie Borden got away with murder or someone else did. Lizzie was acquitted of the axe murder of Andrew and Abby Borden and no one else was ever arrested. The Borden murder case has been cold for over a hundred years yet criminologist - professional and amateur - continue to pore over newspaper accounts, police reports, and trial transcripts looking for the real killer. There have been many theories, but the case remains unsolved.


Date: August 4, 1892

Location: Fall River, MA

Victims: Andrew Jackson Borden, Abby Durfee Borden

Cause of Death: Blows from a hatchet

Accused: Lizzie Andrew Borden

Synopsis:
About 10:45 on August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden returned home from his daily errands in downtown Fall River. About half an hour later his daughter Lizzie found him dead on the couch in the sitting room. She called out to their maid, Bridget Sullivan, who was in her upstairs bedroom. Andrew had been hacked beyond recognition, his skull crushed by hatchet blows. Shortly after, while Lizzie was being tended to by neighbors and the family doctor, Bridget Sullivan went upstairs and found Lizzie's stepmother, Abby Borden, on the floor of her bedroom, in the same state as her husband.


The police concluded that the murder was committed by someone within the Borden home. Only Lizzie and Bridget Sullivan were home at the time and Lizzie became their prime suspect. At the inquest on August 9, Lizzie gave testimony that was confused and contradictory. Two days later she was arrested for murder.

Lizzie and her older sister Emma had grown apart from their father and stepmother, so much so that  the family never dined together. Emma, who seldom left home, was out of town on the day of the murders.

John Morse, brother of Andrew's first wife Sarah (mother of Lizzie and Emma), was visiting the Bordens that week. Andrew had decided to divide his property among relatives while he was still alive. He was in the process of transferring a summer home to John Morse. The daughters felt this property should be theirs. This was thought to have been Lizzie's motive.

Trial: June 5, 1893

Police had found a hatchet with a broken handle in the basement, but it showed no sign of blood. Forensics experts testified that it would have taken the killer too long to clean it. Andrew's body was still warm when it was discovered. Similarly, it was argued that it would have taken too long for Lizzie to have changed her bloody clothing and returned to "discover" the body.

A neighbor testified to seeing Lizzie burn a blue dress in the kitchen stove, claiming it was covered with paint. She also testified to seeing Lizzie in a blue dress the morning of the murder. A few days prior to the murder Lizzie had tried to buy prussic acid, a deadly poison, from a local druggist but her request had been refused. This fact was excluded from her trial.

Lizzie had a powerful defense team that included former Massachusetts Governor George Robinson. Though there was compelling circumstantial evidence against her, with the murder weapon successfully challenged, the prosecution had no physical evidence. The defense was able to cast doubt on all of the prosecution's case.

Verdict: Not guilty

Aftermath:
After the trial Lizzie and her sister Emma used their inheritance to buy a much larger house in Fall River, which they named Maplecroft. They lived together there until 1905 when, after an argument over a party Lizzie had thrown for actress Nance O’Neil, Emma moved out. Lizzie remained in Maplecroft until her death in 1927. During the time at Maplecroft she changed her name from Lizzie, the name on her birth certificate to Lizbeth, the name on her gravestone.

Though Lizzie Borden was found not guilty by a jury of her peers, the public has never been satisfied with the verdict. The story is incomplete, there is a need to know more. If Lizzie did it, how did she hide the evidence? If she didn’t do it, then who did? In the hundred and twenty years since Lizzie’s acquittal, dozens of authors and media producers have been working to satisfy that need. Here are a few of the theories put forth—it should be remembered that these are all pure speculation, none is based upon fact:
  • Bridget Sullivan was angry for being asked to clean windows on an oppressively hot day. She had been sick with food poisoning the previous day.  Perhaps she snapped under the pressure and killed her employers.
  • John Morse had been out of the house when the murders occurred. He could have been hiding in the basement then, alone or with Lizzie's help, killed the Bordens. It is speculated that Emma was also included in this conspiracy.
  • Lizzie did not get any blood on her clothing because she removed them and committed the murders in the nude. Then she hastily redressed, careful not to get any blood on her dress.
  • William Borden, an alleged illegitimate half-brother of Lizzie and Emma, committed the murders out of revenge after his father failed to submit to his extortion demands. 


This is one of 50 stories featured in the new book
The Bloody Century
Sources:
Websites:
Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts
Lizzie Andrew Borden Virtual Museum and Library
The Hatchet
The Trial of Lizzie Borden
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast

Books:
The Lizzie Borden Sourcebook. d: Branden Books, 1992.

Chaney, Karen Elizabeth. Lizzie Borden (New England Remembers) . Beverly, MA: Commonwealth Editions, 2006.

Masterton, William. Lizzie Didn't Do It!. d: Branden Books, 2000.

Gravesite (from Findagrave)
Lizzie Borden's Tombstone

Ballads (from Mudcat Cafe)
"Fall River Hoedown"


16 comments :

Anonymous says:
October 26, 2010 at 6:41 PM

i Have To Do A Report On This And iTs Kool !! Haha <3

Anonymous says:
January 5, 2012 at 6:51 PM

She was the OJ Simpson of the 19th Century. Money bought her the Dream Team of lawyers. Also, I think it didn't hurt that "women didn't do such things" in those days (so people thought). I cannot see clear that it was anyone else but Lizzie; but theories are always interesting.

Anonymous says:
February 19, 2012 at 4:03 PM

She and her sister hired a "hit-person".

Anonymous says:
March 2, 2012 at 6:06 PM

You are kidding me, right? She is SO GUILTY!!!!She could have buried the ax and burned her clothes. It kinda says that she is guilty IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous says:
March 3, 2012 at 11:41 AM

I am prone to believe the Step Brother theory...I think Andrew came home at that time to meet with the son...and I believe Lizzie knew there was a meeting. When Lizzie went on trial it was clear and simple. She didnt do it....after the trial she was excommunicated from her church...in a way that was her punishment...I believe they knew she knew who the killer was

AM Ballard says:
May 6, 2012 at 2:33 AM

I think she did it, though not necessarily without others' knowledge, maybe even assistance---a lone person negotiating the house, avoiding notice by the maid would have been very difficult in itself, let alone escaping detection by two people---for a 2 hour interval. She did it. I think the sister Emma just quietly turned a blind eye and let her younger sister was going to do.
As for the step-brother theory, there is no proof at all William Borden was a illegitimate son of Andrew. Borden is a common name in the region.

Anonymous says:
June 29, 2012 at 3:40 PM

I don't believe she did the murders, but I do believe that she knew who did and chose to protect this person. That person is the maid, B. Sullivan.

I go with the first explanation given as to the who and the why of the murders. There is ample proof that Bridget had an expensive attorney (provided for by Emma and Lizzie). At one point, Bridget was given money and a trip back to Ireland curtesy of the two ladies.

Yes, in my book it was Bridget Sullivan. And both Lizzie and Emma knew this and chose not speak of it.

Susan Sager

Anonymous says:
August 7, 2012 at 12:38 AM

I have to be honest, I've always thought that Lizzie Borden was guilty. But, now this story has cast some doubt in my mind. Still, who would kill their dad and step-mom naked? That part doesn't make much sense to me. However, I have to say that burning her dress, even though in my book that's going a little too far, it's very incriminating. Plus, if your dress had a paint stain on it, would you burn it? Probably not. If you were a rational person of sound mind, you'd simply sew yourself a new one and let the old one get swept up with the trash.

Anonymous says:
October 5, 2012 at 9:51 AM

She did because it is always the people that you dont expect her and her brother did it because they knew that they wouldn't cause a woman of doing such a thing I also think it is the maid she was the one who was find the bodiwe and she was the only one at home it was all three of them they all had motives

Anonymous says:
October 19, 2012 at 4:01 PM

There's so much more that ahsn't been metioned about the Borden family. It is rumored that Mr Borden molested Lizzie over a period of time. It is noted that Lizzies bedroom was next to her fathers bedroom and Lizzie would block the door leading from his room to hers. This itself would be motive for Lizzie to murder her father. Did she do it? I believe she did adnh I believe she had motive and opportunity as it is quite possible that there was a family conspiracy to kill the father and step mother.

Robert Wilhelm says:
October 20, 2012 at 9:09 AM

If I dealt in rumors this would be a much different blog. The rumor that Lizzie was molested by her father is a modern one; no one at the time suggested that she was molested. Where is it noted that Lizzie would block the door? Give me a written source for this information and I will check it. If there is any hard evidence, I will update the post.

Caleb21 says:
November 7, 2012 at 5:55 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caleb21 says:
November 7, 2012 at 6:00 PM

That dresser, according to a map of the Borden house was actually on Mr/Mrs Borden's side of a door between their room and Lizzie's, blocking it off. Both bedrooms had second doors, Lizzie's leading to a front stairwell and Borden's to a back stair. A common setup to be found in old houses in New England as many old homes were built without hallways, one room lead to another typically.
The molestation theory is a modern one, sheer conjecture based on modern psychology and nothing else...there is zero evidence to support it, however. The Lizzie also had a desk blocking a door, but it was to a front guest bedroom (where Mrs Borden was found dead, shoved partly under the bed according to recently found journals). Both of these blocked doors were also kept locked apparently and the dresser and desk were simply placed in their positions as it was convenient, not to block the doorway as they were not being used.

Caleb21 says:
November 9, 2012 at 3:39 AM

Sorry to add a second comment but someone mentioned the step-brother theory that was first brought forth in Brown's book, published in 1992. Even he conceited that there was no proof either Andrew had any illegitimate children or what a certain William Borden was Andrew's illegitimate son. He gives some evidence to suggest a connection but nothing very convincing. I have to wonder if anyone has researched it more recently as Brown did that back in the 1980s--records can be searched much easier now. The William Borden that Brown alleges is the secret son died in 1901 apparently at his own hand, though little is given as to his origin. Borden is a common name in the area, however.

Nikki Layhue says:
January 27, 2014 at 2:03 AM

We will never know who did it, ever, unless someone, somewhere produces verifiable written letters or journals of whom ever it was that committed the murders,that have indisputable facts and evidence that they alone or with accomplices committed the murders. All we got are far out theories and hypotheses. Until that day comes, or by some awesome technologies that could determine through exhumation that beyond a shadow of a doubt Lizzie, the maid, Emma, or the illegitimate brother, or all 3 or 2 or just 1lone person did it. It will forever remain an unsolved, cold case. However fascinating it is. Anyway, people love this kind of mystery, it keeps us guessing! And guessing ........

Nikki Layhue says:
January 27, 2014 at 2:04 AM

We will never know who did it, ever, unless someone, somewhere produces verifiable written letters or journals of whom ever it was that committed the murders,that have indisputable facts and evidence that they alone or with accomplices committed the murders. All we got are far out theories and hypotheses. Until that day comes, or by some awesome technologies that could determine through exhumation that beyond a shadow of a doubt Lizzie, the maid, Emma, or the illegitimate brother, or all 3 or 2 or just 1lone person did it. It will forever remain an unsolved, cold case. However fascinating it is. Anyway, people love this kind of mystery, it keeps us guessing! And guessing ........

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