Lizzie Borden: Murder in Fall River

James R. CoffeyStarred Page By James R. Coffey, 24th Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Celebrities>Scandals

Lizzie Borden came to public prominence when she became the prime suspect in the hatchet murders of her father and stepmother on August 4th, 1892. The murders, trial, and notoriety of the incident has not only become part of American pop culture, it has made Lizzie a veritable icon of evil and treachery.

Lizzie Andrew Borden

Lizzie Andrew Borden, born on July 19th, 1860, was a resident of Fall River, Massachusetts who came to public prominence when she became the prime suspect in the hatchet murders of her father and stepmother on August 4th, 1892. The murders, trial, and notoriety of the incident has not only become part of American pop culture, it has made Lizzie a veritable icon of evil and treachery.

Although acquitted, (no one else was ever arrested or tried), Lizzie remains notorious in American folklore as the woman who “took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks, and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

The story

According to testimony, on August 4th, 1892, Andrew Borden went into town to run errands at the bank and post office, returning home about 10:45 am. Lizzie claimed to have found his bloodied body about thirty minutes later. As told by Bridget Sullivan, the twenty-six-year old Borden maid, she’d been lying down in her room when she heard Lizzie calling to her shortly after 11:00 am, saying someone had killed her father. His body was found slumped on the couch in the downstairs sitting room, his face turned to the right, appearing to be asleep.

A short time later while Lizzie was being tended by the family doctor, Sullivan discovered the mutilated body of Andrew’s wife Abbie upstairs in the guest bedroom. The two had been bludgeoned with a hatchet, having suffered numerous blows to the head, with Andrew Borden’s left eyeball neatly split in half.

The arrest and trial

Lizzie was arrested on August 11th, 1892, and her trial began ten months later. Depositions showed that during the police investigation, a hatchet was found in the basement and subsequently assumed to be the murder weapon even though it had no traces of blood. But in that most of the handle was missing, the prosecution argued that it had been intentionally broken off because it had been covered with blood. Police officer Michael Mullaly, however, stated that he found the missing handle piece lying next to the hatchet. A forensics expert testified that there was no time for the hatchet to have been cleaned or the handle broken off after the murders. Although the forensic technology of fingerprinting had been developed by this time, the Fall River police put no trust in this new science, refusing to take prints from the hatchet.

Further weakening the State’s case against Lizzie was that her blood-soaked clothing was never found, although a few days after the murder, Lizzie admitted to having burned a blue dress in the kitchen stove, claiming it had been ruined when she brushed against fresh paint.

Not guilty

Despite inconsistencies in her testimony and incriminating circumstances (and suspicion from much of the courtroom), Lizzie Borden was acquitted on June 20th, 1893, after an hour and a half of jury deliberation. The fact that no murder weapon had been found and that no blood evidence was discovered just minutes after the second murder, provided enough reasonable doubt. Adding to her defense, her lawyers managed to have her entire original deposition barred from the trial (said to have been quite incriminating), which also excluded testimony regarding her attempt to purchase prussic acid a few days before the murders.

Adding to the jury’s doubt was the fact that another axe murder had recently taken place in the area, perpetrated by one José Correira--even though Correira was proven not to have been in the United States when the Borden murders took place.

Aftermath and celebrity

After the trial, Lizzie and her sister Emma moved to a new house that Lizzie dubbed “Maplecroft.” The two settled all civil claims made against them from Abby’s family, giving them everything they wanted to avoid further lawsuits.

In June of 1905, after twelve years living together, the two became estranged over lifestyle differences, Lizzie said to have used her celebrity to garner public attention. Apparently, shortly after an argument concerning a party Lizzie had given for her theater friends, Emma moved out to live with her close friend Alice Lydia Buck. Lizzie Borden began using the name “Lizbeth” A. Borden from that time on.

Lizzie Borden died of pneumonia on June 1st, 1927, in Fall River, Massachusetts, after a year of gallbladder illness. She never married. The details of her funeral were never made public and only few people attended her burial. Lizzie was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery under the name Lizbeth Andrew Borden, her footstone was inscribed “Lizbeth.”


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Abbie Borden, Andrew Borden, Axe Murder, Bridget Sullivan, Emma Borden, Fall River, Jos Correira, Lizbeth Borden, Lizzie Andrew Borden, Lizzie Borden, Massachusetts, Michael Mullaly, Murder

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author avatar James R. Coffey
I am founder and head writer for James R. Coffey Writing Services and Resource Center @ where I offer a variety of writing and research services including article composition, ghostwriting, editing...(more)

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author avatar Jerry Walch
24th Oct 2010 (#)

Fantastic job. One of my favorite criminal histories.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
24th Oct 2010 (#)

creepy and mysterious, either way somebody got away with murder.

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author avatar Denise O
16th Nov 2010 (#)

This is the article, I was waiting to read when my family and I fell ill from the
flu 2 weeks ago.
Once again.
Well worth the wait!
I have always been intrigued with this story.
I never knew as many facts as you have presented.
Great job!
Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar James R. Coffey
16th Nov 2010 (#)

Thank you, and you're welcome. (A two-week flu sounds pretty serious.)

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author avatar piscescusp
30th Nov 2010 (#)

Not that Lizzie was right or wrong IF she did murder her parents...but her father was known to be an evil person.

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author avatar Pink&Blue
14th May 2011 (#)

Very mysterious and interestingly horrific. Thanks for sharing.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
15th May 2011 (#)

Thanks for the input, piscescusp and Crystal.

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