WARNING: Some photographs and descriptions on this page may not be suitable for children THE STRANGE CASE OF LIZZIE BORDEN Fall River, MA. "Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done She gave her father forty-one."                                         -   Anonymous  THE BACKGROUND        On August 4, 1892, the 32-year-old spinster daughter of Andrew and Abby Borden - Lizbeth or “Lizzy” - was tending to chores around and about the family home at 92 Second St. in Fall River, MA.  Industry in Fall River at that time was centered around the burgeoning New England textile industry and 70-year-old Andrew Jackson Borden was an affluent businessman who owned several prosperous commercial properties, served as President of the Union Savings Bank and on the boards of a number of local businesses. Lizzie's mother, Sarah Borden had died in 1862 when Lizzie was but two years old and Andrew would eventually re-marry to 38-year- old Abby Durfee Gray three years later.                                 Andrew Borden       Abby Borden         Sarah Borden       Lizbeth Borden      Emma Borden      It was an especially hot day in the city of Fall River and after eating a breakfast of mutton soup, sliced mutton, pancakes, bananas, pears, cookies, and coffee, Andrew left his home to run some postal and banking errands. His brother-in-law from his marriage to Sarah, John Vinnicum Morse, was visiting at this time and had left the house around 9:00 am to tend to the matter of purchasing a pair of oxen and to visit a niece who lived in the city. Another daughter - 41-year-old Emma - was also away from home visiting friends in Falmouth, MA. that day leaving Lizzie, her stepmother and their Irish-born maid of three years, 26-year-old Bridget Sullivan - who had served Andrew his breakfast - as the only people there. For whatever their reason, the Bordens referred to Sullivan as “Maggie”.                                                                           John Morse            Bridget Sullivan      The atmosphere in the Borden home in those days was far from idyllic. Andrew, while financially successful, was not particularly liberal with his spending. As an example, because of the cost, he refused to install indoor plumbing in the house even though it was easily affordable to them. Rather than reside in a more upscale part of town befitting a man of his means, he instead chose to live in a more "unfashionable" location in order to remain closer to his business interests. Lizzie and her sister Emma did not entertain male company and both led very sheltered and restrictive existences. Lizzie's interaction with the outside world was limited to teaching Sunday school at nearby Central Congregational Church, holding the position of officer in the Christian Endeavor Society and membership in the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Activities that her strict and sanctimonious father approved of and that brought her respect and relative approval in the community despite her marital status. She was said to be a kind and generous woman with a particular fondness for children and animals. Her sister Emma's forays into the world were more or less limited to visiting another nearby spinster named Alice Russell. Central Congregational Church      Perhaps the only thing that made this all somewhat tolerable was the promise of their inheritances upon their father's death and cynics might say his passing would be something of a liberating event in their lives. However, this small ray of hope was dashed when Andrew turned their inheritances over to stepmother Abby, who by all accounts was very devoted to her husband. Their distress was compounded by some valuable properties being turned over to relatives of their stepmother. In one case, both daughters became very upset that Abby was also given a rental property. So vehement were their protests that the normally frugal Andrew purchased each a house of equal value to placate them. In fact, their Uncle John's visit that week was to complete the property transfer of a summer home that was originally intended to be theirs and as a result, the girls relationship with him also quickly deteriorated.        Any anger and disappointment that remained bottled up inside them now became more overt as there were constant fights over finances. Andrew and Abby became convinced Lizzie was stealing money and jewelry from them and at one point in June of 1891, police were called to the house to investigate the theft of $100, some small items and a watch and chain. (There were also some local merchants who openly suspected Lizzie of shoplifting from their stores.) While Andrew and Abby did not actually accuse Lizzie of theft, the door connecting their room to Lizzie's was bolted shut and the house became literally divided - the upstairs front relegated to Lizzie and Emma and the rear to Andrew and Abby. Meals were taken separately and the daughters took to referring to their stepmother as "Mrs. Borden." One week before the murders, Lizzie and Emma left on trip to New Bedford. Upon their return, Lizzie chose to stay in a rooming house for four days rather than return to the family home.        So it was on this sweltering August day that Andrew returned to the house at 10:30 am after completing his errands and remained downstairs to nap on the sofa. At the same time, Abby was tending to the guest room where John was staying. Bridget Sullivan claimed she was lying down upstairs in her third-floor bedroom as earlier, around 9 am, she had gone outside to vomit due to falling ill. Abby up to then showed little compassion for her maid’s condition and instructed her to wash every window in the house, inside and out. At the same time Bridget and Abby were having their issues, Lizzie claimed she was ironing and sewing and later visited with Bridget before doing some reading on her own. A GHASTLY DISCOVERY      When Andrew returned, his key failed to open the door so he knocked to be let in with Bridget answering the call. Fumbling with the lock, she uttered an epitath which she claims made Lizzie laugh from a vantage point at the top of the stirs, although she could not actually see her standing there. At 11:15 am, Bridget heard Lizzy scream to her from downstairs, "Maggie! Come down!". Asking what was the matter, she heard Lizzie respond, "Come down quick! Father's dead! Somebody's come in and killed him!" Rushing downstairs, she was immediately dispatched by Lizzie to get neighbor Dr. Seabury Bowen. She was not allowed by Lizzie at that point to focus upon the horror of Andrew Borden half-lying on the sofa with his head bludgeoned beyond recognition by 11 blows with a sharp instrument, 4 of which had crushed his skull. Frantically running to the Bowen's house, she was told Dr. Bowen was not there and then informed his wife Phoebe of what had transpired. Another neighbor, Adelaide Churchill, saw Bridget running toward the Bowens and called out to her. "Something awful has happened!" Bridget responded. Mrs. Churchill then went back into the house and through a window saw Lizzie on the back stairs of the house, head in hands. She called over to Lizzie to determine what the trouble was.  "Oh, Mrs. Churchill," Lizzie cried, "please come over! Someone has killed Father!" Told that Dr. Bowen was not available, Mrs. Churchill sent her handyman to fetch a doctor and to phone the police.                                                  Alice Russell (1931)       Dr. Seabury Bowen        Adelaide Churchill      Upon seeing Mr. Borden's lifeless body, Churchill asked Lizzie about her stepmother and was told that Abby had gone off at some point to visit a sick friend. By this time Bridget, who had been sent away again to inform yet another neighbor, Alice Russell, of what had happened had returned. Dr. Bowen soon arrived back home and when informed by his wife what had transpired, rushed across the street where he immediately upon viewing the crime scene, pronounced Andrew dead. He then asked for a sheet to cover the body and subsequently spoke to Lizzie in private for no more than a minute.        The Fall River police received the call at approximately 11:25 and Officer George Allen was dispatched to the scene, running about 400 yards from the station to the Borden house where he was met by Dr. Bowen at the front door. Upon entering and seeing Mr. Borden's body, he also found Lizzie sitting alone at the kitchen table. Allen then ordered a bystander named Charles Sawyer to watch over the crime scene while he returned to the station to summon more officers. In total, seven policemen were ordered to the home. By this point, a crowd of curiosity-seekers had gathered on the lawn, all trying to catch a glimpse of the carnage that was on display inside the house. Literally hundreds of people clamored for a morbid glance of the corpse of Andrew Borden, but even in the absence of law enforcement, Sawyer held his ground. It should be noted here that a bulk of the police department were attending an outing at Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick, R.I. that day leaving mainly junior officers available.        After Allen left for the station, Bridget again inquired of Mrs. Borden's whereabouts, believing as Lizzie had previously informed her, that she had been sent for by a friend who was ill. Lizzie somewhat surprisingly remarked, "Maggie, I am almost positive I heard her coming in. Go upstairs and see." At first frightened and unwilling to do so until joined by Mrs. Churchill, the two women's worst fears were realized when they came upon the body of Abby, lying face down on the floor upstairs in the guest room where John Morse was staying. She had been slaughtered in a similar manner as her husband, receiving 19 blows to the back of her head. Returning to kitchen and sitting down while exhaling an audible sigh, Mrs. Churchill was asked by Alice Russell, "What, another?" "Yes", Churchill replied. "Mrs. Borden is killed too."      Before Mrs. Borden's body was discovered, Dr. Bowen had briefly excused himself to wire Emma Borden, who was still away visiting friends. Upon his return he was informed of the grisly findings upstairs and performed a cursory examination of the bodies. Mr. Borden had apparently been attacked from behind judging by the blood splatter patterns and the location and angle of the blows he received. An eyeball had been completely cut in half and his nose severed from his face. The blows were concentrated within a small area of the head, around the eyes, nose and ears. Mrs. Borden's wounds were also generated from behind. At this point it was reasonable to assume the same instrument was used which had taken her husband's life. The one revealing discrepancy between the bodies was that Mr. Borden's blood was still relatively fresh while his wife's had already begun to congeal, indicating that she was murdered first.      At this point, Officer Patrick Doherty & Deputy Sheriff Wixon arrived at house where they were let in by Dr. Bowen. Officer Doherty questioned Lizzie who told him she had heard a "scraping noise" somewhere in the house prior to finding her father's body. Doherty then went with Bowen to view Abby's body, moving the bed adjacent to where she was found to get a better view. He then went to a nearby undertaker's shop around the corner to phone the station and inform them of his findings. Upon his return he found the home now teeming with police officers who had by then responded to the initial call. Ironically, the County Medical Examiner, William Dolan, was passing by the Borden home and noticing all the ruckus, stopped in to see what was happening there. After viewing the grisly scene, Bowen informed him of something that happened two days prior that when Lizzie had come to see him claiming she had been poisoned the previous night. In hearing about Lizzie's tale of "poisoning" from Dr. Bowen and the police - for whom Lizzie had related her story as well - Dolan photographed the bodies, had their stomachs removed and sent to Harvard Medical School along with a sample of milk taken from the house. No trace of poison was detected after that examination.      It was then that John Morse, who had agreed to meet Andrew for lunch, arrived back at the house from his visit to Werybosset St., about a mile from the Borden home. He stopped at a pear tree to pick and eat two of them. He then met Charles Sawyer at the side door where he was informed by Lizzie of what had happened. He was then allowed to enter the home and view the bodies of Andrew and Abby. By 5 pm that evening, Emma had returned from her visit to Falmouth. THE CASE AGAINST LIZZIE      On August 6, police returned to the home to conduct a more thorough search, inspecting Bridget, Lizzie and Emma’s clothing. One of the officers asked Lizzie if she knew where any hatchets were stored on the property. Lizzie then asked Bridget to take the officer to where she knew of some. In fact, four were found in the basement. Two hatchets, two axes, and a hatchet-head with a broken handle. One actually displayed blood and hair on it, although it was later found to be that of a cow. The rest were either rusty or covered in dust. One however was discovered with a recently broken handle and covered in ashes so it was subsequently taken into evidence. Because the break in the head was fresh and the ash found on it (that was absent from the other tools) seemed to have been intentionally rubbed on to create the appearance it had been there for some time, Lizzie was informed later that evening by an officer and the mayor that she was a suspect in the murders. The following morning, one day after Andrew and Abby were laid to rest, Alice Russell stopped by and found Lizzie tearing up a dress. "If I were you," Alice said,  "I wouldn't let anybody see me do that, Lizzie." Lizzie explained that it was covered in paint and she intended to toss it into a fire. Whether it was a dress she wore the previous day is unknown. Police questioning her found her testimony to be confusing at best and contradictory at its worst. At one point she heard a noise during the time of the murders then two hours later claimed she heard nothing when she entered the house.      On August 8th, Lizzie appeared at an inquest hearing that was held in private therefore precluding the presence of the family attorney to represent her. At the hearing, her behavior was deemed to be erratic which could be attributed to the morphine which had been prescribed to her to sooth her nerves. At times she would refuse to answer questions and continued to provide contradictory testimony as to her actions and whereabouts the morning of the murders. At one point she was ion the kitchen reading then in the dining room ironing and later to have been coming down the stairs from the second floor. On August 11, Lizzie was arrested and jailed.      Regarding her visit to Dr. Bowen on August 2nd, Lizzie made a startling and bizarre claim that she and Andrew were very ill and that she suspected someone was trying to poison them. Dr. Bowen dismissed her symptoms as nothing out of the ordinary, but still paid a visit to Andrew later on that evening. The ever-penurious Mr. Borden claimed he was not ill at all and worried more about a potential charge for a house call. It was discovered the primary cook in the house - Bridget - also had been ill that morning. It should be noted that Andrew's thrift may have been the grounds for these spells as refrigeration in the Borden house was token at best. It was simply too "expensive" to adequately insure the unsullied quality of their food and drink.      It was also learned through sworn testimony that Lizzie had attempted to procure a small amount of prussic acid that morning from Smith's Drug Store, claiming it was to "kill moths in a sealskin cape" she owned. The clerk, Eli Bence could not sell the chemical without a prescription and Lizzy went home empty-handed. Lizzie claimed that while in fact she had been out that morning, she never visited Smith's Drug Store. This was called into question based on eyewitness testimony that placed her there between 10:00 and 10:30 am. She later renounced her first statement and stated she had not left the house until later that night.        One intriguing item of note was that John Morse had arrived on August 3rd with intentions of staying overnight, yet brought no luggage with him. His said his intention was to visit relatives (his niece) across town the following day. Both he and Lizzie testified they did not speak to each other at this time, but Lizzie acknowledged his presence in the house.       Another compelling incident of August 3rd was a visit Lizzie paid to Alice Russell that evening. Miss Russell stated that Lizzie seemed very agitated, referring vaguely to a perceived threat made toward her father regarding a rental property as well as his general discourtesy toward people. She was convinced that something dreadful was about to happen to the family. "I feel depressed. I feel as if something was hanging over me that I cannot throw off, and it comes over me at times, no matter where I am."  she told Alice. She also spoke of the family eating baker's bread the evening before and all getting sick except for Bridget, who had not eaten any. There is some speculation as to whether or not Lizzie was planting the seeds of her alibi by relating her true intuitive feelings or setting up Bridget to take the fall. Alice Russell’s former home      On the morning of the murders, Bridget said she had to let Andrew in the house and heard Lizzie chuckling on the second floor stairway, which Lizzie denied claiming instead she was in the kitchen. The significance of this cannot be understated as Abby was murdered before Andrew and anyone on the second floor would have easily discovered her body. Lizzie said her father inquired about Abby and she informed him she had received a note that a friend was sick and Abby had gone to attend to her. She also stated she had removed Andrew's boots and helped him into his slippers before his nap, yet crime scene photos clearly show Andrew wearing his boots. She then informed Bridget of a department store sale and permitted her to go, but Bridget did not feel well and went to take a nap in her bedroom instead.      Because of the general appearance of the blood found on Abby, it was determined she had been killed around or about 9:30 am on August 4th, some time before Andrew was. In order to pull this off, the killer would have had to conceal themselves somewhere inside the home and waited for the opportune moment to strike as the front door was found triple-locked by police officers. Had the killer left the home, how could they have locked the door behind them? Bridget claimed after letting him in she left ever so briefly to fetch some water from the barn. This would seem to present a very small window of opportunity for the killer to strike twice while she was outside.      At the time of the murders, Lizzie said she had not been in the house. This was simply not true. At the time her stepmother's murder was committed - 9:30 am - she said she was inside, yet heard no peculiar noises or sounds. This seemed dubious as Abby - a robust woman -  was struck with an axe and fell to the floor. And where was the note Abby had supposedly received that morning from her sick friend requesting a visit from her? Lizzie's response to that query was that she might have inadvertently burned it.      Bridget had gone to her room to lie down at about 10:55 while Andrew went to the couch to take a nap. Lizzie claimed at this time she was out in the barn looking for iron to make sinkers from. She claimed she intended to join her sister in Fairhaven and do some fishing while there. Fifteen minutes later, she said she returned to the house to find her father dead.        When questioned by Deputy Marshal John Fleet, Lizzie provided alibis for both Bridget and Uncle John, claiming she was lying down and he was not present at the time. She did take umbrage with the Marshal for calling Abby her "mother" and sharply reminded him she was her stepmother. THE TRIAL OF LIZZIE BORDEN      This particular testimony was especially damaging during the August 11th inquest and prompted Judge Blaisdell of the Second District Court to charge Lizzie with murdering her parents. On August 12th she was arraigned and sent to the women's facilities at Taunton Jail. On August 28th, Lizzie's guilt was declared by Judge Blaisdell and she was bound over to the Grand Jury. During this hearing, prosecutor Hosea Knowlton astonishingly invited defense attorney Andrew J. Jennings to present his case, for all intents and purposes conducting an actual trial before the Grand Jury. At first it appeared Lizzie's case might be dismissed, but Alice Russell's testimony regarding the burning of the dress once again proved to be the smoking gun that resulted in Lizzie being charged with three counts of murder - her father's, her stepmother's and peculiarly, in a separate count, both.                            Hosea Knowlton           William Moody        George D. Robinson      Melvin O. Adams        Andrew J. Jennings      The trial took place in New Bedford, MA. on June 5, 1893 and was to last 14 days. The jury consisted of twelve middle-aged farmers and tradesmen. The courthouse was filled each day from between 30 and 40 news reporters, many from Boston and New York. Pressure from supporters of Lizzie that included religious and women's groups resulted in Massachusetts Attorney General Arthur Pillsbury assigning the case to Fall River District Attorney Knowlton. The politically savvy Pillsbury wanted no part of any ensuing backlash should he perform his duties too well and secure a "guilty" verdict against Lizzie. Knowlton would be assisted by William Moody, District Attorney of Essex County. Knowlton proved to be something less than an aggressive prosecutor. Some would even say he was ambivalent during the proceedings. Moody proved in many ways to be the most competent of all present and in fact would go on to serve in Congress, become Secretary of the Navy, then Attorney General and eventually be named as a Justice to the Supreme Court by fellow Harvard classmate Theodore Roosevelt. Borden jury      The defense was comprised of Jennings, a prominent Fall River lawyer who had been Andrew Borden's attorney and became Lizzie's advisor from the time the murders occurred. His demeanor was one of calm and reserve and he was extremely well-respected amongst his peers. He would be assisted by associate counsel Melvin O. Adams, a former assistant District Attorney who had returned to private practice eight years prior and who would work tirelessly cross-examining witnesses and provide crucial legal elements which would eventually result in a "not guilty" verdict. The lead counsel was George D. Robinson, who while somewhat lacking in trial experience, was held in high regard within the legal community. He was a former Massachusetts Senator, Congressman and as Massachusetts Governor from 1883-1886 had appointed Justice Justin Dewey - who would hear the case - to Superior Court. The significance of his presence on the defense team was not lost on most knowledgeable observers. Justice Justin Dewey      The prosecution, led by Moody, would argue that Lizzie had motive for the murders and that she had bloodlessly planned their executions. They also would cite her contradictory testimony as inconsistent with someone truly innocent of the crime. They sought to establish that Andrew Borden was in the process of changing his will (though the original could not be produced) by calling John Morse to the stand. Adding to the confusion over the will was "Uncle John" first testifying that a will did indeed exist, and later recant that by stating that Andrew never told him of a will. The terms of the new will, according to Morse detailed that Lizzie and Emma would receive $25,000 each and that the rest of the $500,000 estate would go to Abby, including the family farm in Swansea, MA. Former Borden family farm      It was at this point that two very crucial court rulings regarding testimony took place. These eventually would serve as important pieces in Lizzie's eventual verdict of innocence.      1. In their attempt to enter Lizzie's testimony into the record, Robinson successfully argued that it was taken from someone who had not yet been formally charged. The court eventually ruled in favor of the defense and Lizzie's testimony was indeed disallowed.      2. Eli Bence, who was the drug clerk at Smith's Drug Store where Lizzie had attempted to purchase prussic acid and whose testimony was crucial to the prosecution, was called to the stand by the prosecution. The defense objected, citing the irrelevance of the testimony. After hearing both sides, the court again ruled against the prosecution, saying her intent to purchase prussic acid was indeed irrelevant and ultimately inadmissible. Eli Bence      Two key elements emphasized in Lizzie's defense were witness testimony that a mysterious young man was seen in the vicinity of the Borden home close to the date of the murders, and Emma's declaration of a lack of any motive for Lizzie to take the lives of her father and stepmother. In fact, Emma's staunch and vigorous defense of her sister throughout the trial was a tremendous advantage to the defense's efforts.      At one point in the trial the prosecution attempted a risky maneuver meant to shock the jurors and perhaps sway their sympathies toward a guilty verdict. Andrew Borden's skull was entered into evidence as a means of graphically pointing out where the blows had been struck. The defense cunningly turned this against them as it argued that surely anyone committing such a vile and horrifying act that would result in such extensive damage would be no doubt drenched in blood. Yet no one could state they at any point saw a single drop of blood on Lizzie. It was apparent the defense case rested heavily upon creating "reasonable doubt".      It was on Monday, June 19th, that defense attorney George Robinson delivered his closing arguments with Hosea Knowlton rebutting for the prosecution. Knowlton's closing argument concluded the following day. At long last, Lizzie was asked if she wished to speak on her own behalf - and she did - uttering these words, "I am innocent. I leave it to my counsel to speak for me." Justice Dewey then gave a summation of the case to the jurors before dispatching them for their final verdict. Astoundingly, his words heavily leaned toward the defense's perspective as he spoke glowingly of the defendant's character and acts of charity. He made a particular emphasis that the jurors would have to weigh all this against the act she was accused of and whether they had reasonable doubt that such a person was capable of committing these acts of violence. At 3:24 p.m., the jury was sent to deliberations. At 4:32 p.m., in little over an hour they returned their verdict.        Clerk" "Gentlemen of the jury, have you agreed upon your verdict?"        Foreman: "We have."        Clerk" "Please return the papers to the court." (which was done)        Clerk" "Lizzie Andrew Borden, hold up your right hand. Mr. Foreman, look upon the prisoner; prisoner, look upon the foreman.       "What say you, Mr. Foreman?"        Foreman: NOT GUILTY!"       The courtroom burst into applause which was quickly quelled by the court bailiffs. It was clear that the overall sentiment was that Lizzie had been persecuted by the police and the prosecutors and she was now free at last. Lizzie sat and bowed her head against the railing from where she stood and remained there silently with her thoughts.      After the trial, the Borden sisters moved into a large, modern house in The Hill neighborhood in Fall River. Around this time, Lizzie began using the name Lizbeth A. Borden. At their new house, which Lizbeth dubbed "Maplecroft", they had a staff that included live-in maids, a housekeeper, and a coachman. Because Abby was ruled to have died before Andrew, her estate went first to Andrew and then, at his death, passed to his daughters as part of his estate; a considerable settlement, however, was paid to settle claims by Abby's family.      Despite the acquittal, Lizbeth was ostracized by Fall River society. Her name was again brought into the public eye when she was accused of shoplifting in 1897 in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1905, shortly after an argument over a party that Lizbeth had given for actress Nance O'Neil, Emma moved out of the house. She never saw her sister again.
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