Last Updated 14 Apr 2020

Did Lizzie Borden Commit Murder

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A little over a century ago an atrocious double murder was committed, in the two-half story house at 92 Second Street, in Fall River, Massachusetts. This crime shocked the city of Fall River, as well as the nation, as Lizzie Borden, a 32-year-old Sunday school teacher, went on trial for the murder of her father and her stepmother. (Augustine). An all male jury eventually acquitted her on the accusations. (Aiuto). To this day, the murderer of Andrew J. Borden and Abby Gray Borden is still unknown, but in the public mind everyone believes it was Lizzie Borden.

Lizzie was born and grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts. She was the youngest daughter of Andrew Jackson Borden, who was a very successful Banker and Sarah Borden. Sarah died when Lizzie was very young and Andrew then married Abby Durfee Gray. Lizzie grew up with an elder sister, Emma. Neither of them ever married. It is said the sisters hated their stepmother, mainly because of the family’s inferior social position. (History Channel). Many of the wealthier houses at the time had electricity and running water, the Borden house did not, making Andrew’s reputation a penny pincher. Clark). On the day of August 4, 1892, the bodies of Andrew Borden and his wife were found mutilated. (History Channel). As opposed to 40 whacks, in the popular rhyme, 19 blows struck Abby Borden by a hatchet or axe to the back of her head and neck. (History Channel). At the time she was cleaning the guestroom of the family home, at 9:30 am. Andrew Borden, who had returned home around 10:30 am, after his daily business had been attended to, was napping on a couch in the parlor, when he was attacked. (Lizzie). 11 blows were struck upon Mr.

Borden's head and face, to the point that one eye hung from its socket, making him unrecognizable. (History Channel). There were only two people in or about the house at the time of the killings, Lizzie Andrew Borden and Bridget Sullivan, the Borden's maid. (Clark) There is some speculation as to others that may have been responsible for these evil acts. Among the other alleged killers is John Morse, the brother of Andrew's first wife, Emma Borden, Lizzie's elder sister. Soon after the murders, Lizzie emerged as the prime suspect after John Morse’s alibi checked out. Clark). She then was arrested and tried on three counts, the murder of Abbey, of Andrew, and of them both and, if found guilty, faced death by hanging. (Clark). What makes the Fall River murders so perplexing is that the motive, the weapon and the opportunity for such a crime are all absent. When the Fall River constabulary investigated the murders, they found no money or jewelry missing, not even small amounts of change or the packet of bus tickets as were taken in the daytime break-in at the Borden home twelve months earlier. (History Channel).

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There was some speculation on Andrew having a will, but no will was ever found, leaving the entire estate to Lizzie and Emma. (Clark). A local pharmacist reported Lizzie coming into his store and asking for prussic acid or hydrogen cyanide on several different occasions two weeks prior to the murders. (Augustine). Lizzie insisted that she needed it to clean an item of clothing, but the pharmacist refused to sell it to her without a prescription. (Augustine). Also, when the bodies had been discovered many people from throughout the neighborhood were entering and exiting the crime scene and could have easily moved evidence to protect Lizzie. Clark). Besides the lack of a clear motive for the murders, there was also the perplexing lack of opportunity. Fall River found the entire Borden house locked up as usual, and during the two-and-a-half-hour period in which both murders were completed, the maid Bridget was outside the house washing windows and daughter Lizzie was inside the house reading a magazine. (History Channel). Even if one of the two committed the crime, the violent and bloody act should have been noisy enough to attract the attention of the other. There was also not a lot of blood splatter at the crime scene. (Clark).

If Lizzie were to have murdered her parents there should have been some sort of blood on Lizzie’s clothes. (Clark). The prosecution used this as a key part of their trial. They had a witness that said she saw Lizzie burning a blue dress in her kitchen and the prosecution insisted that it was the dress Lizzie killed her parent’s in. (Clark). Lizzie did in fact burn a dress and was seen doing so, but she was burning it because she had no use for it anymore because it was soiled with paint. (Clark). June 1893, Lizzie was arrested and sent to trial. The all-male jury was put into a difficult position. (Lizzie).

It was the Victorian Era where women were considered delicate flowers and not capable of killing someone and it was not a common issue to deal with in those times. (History Channel). After only an hour of deliberating, the jury declared Lizzie to be not guilty. It is said it only took them 15 minutes to decide, but out of respect for the prosecution, they waited another 45 minutes before they informed the court of their decision. (Lizzie). Shortly after the trial, Emma and Lizzie each inherited half of their father's estate, about $200,000. 00 each, which was a large amount of money in those days. (History Channel).

Their first purchase was a home on The Hill, at 7 French Street, which Lizzie named Maplecroft. (Clark). Lizzie also changed her name to Lizbeth. (Clark) Lizzie became a social outcast after the trial, with few friends remaining loyal. (History Channel). Her every move was criticized: if she appeared solemn in public, it was because she was guilt-ridden because of her crime; if she was happy, it proved she was a heartless monster. Lizzie soon had to travel farther to do her shopping, but she was not left along by reporters. (Clark). Reports after the trial of Lizzie usually were rumors, from engagements to cases of shoplifting.

These papers never seemed willing to print tales of her good deeds, such as her many charitable donations, her aide to deserving young people who could not afford a college education. (Clark). Nor did they print stories of her love of animals, or of the arts. (Clark). The murder of Andrew and Abby Borden will forever be a cold case and one of the most gruesome crimes that could have been committed by a woman. People will always have some sort of curiosity towards this case because of the lack of evidence, the opportunity and motive that could have possibly been.

Works Cited

  • Aiuto, Russell. “Lizzie Borden Took An Ax. ” TruTv. Turner Broadcasting System, 2010. Web. 27 Oct 2010
  • Augustine, Megan. “Dusting off a Cold Case with Modern Forensics: Lizzie Borden…fortyone. ” The Forensics Examiner. 14. 4 (2005): 52+ Academic OneFile. Web. 14 Oct 2010.
  • Clark, Denise M. “How Lizzie Got Away With Murder. ” Crimemagazine. com. Crime Magazine,2010. Web. 25 Oct 2010. The History Channel: The Strange Case Of Lizzie Borden. New Video, 2005. DVD. “Lizzie Andrew Borden. ”
  • Karisable. com. Karisable Burns. 26 Apr. 2004. Web. 27 Oct 2010.
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