Alleged Murderess. At the age of 32 she was accused of the double homicide of her father and stepmother. On August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden and his second wife Abby (Durfee) Borden were killed in their family home at 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts. Although it was Mr. Borden that was the initial victim discovered, Mrs. Borden died first at approximately 9AM from receiving 19 blows with a heavy bladed object in an upstairs bedroom to be followed by her husband who is estimated to have been killed two hours later by receiving 11 blows with a similar weapon. No murder weapon was officially confirmed however a "handleless hatchet" later discovered to be tainted with cow's blood spurned the conception of Lizzie Borden as an ax murderess. The murders have never been solved and due to extensive media coverage (Lizzie's arrest and subsequent trial made world news and was followed by the media daily in media across the country and the world) and horrific nature of the crime this case has gone down in history as being a fascination to academians and amateur sleuths alike. Many movies, plays and books have explored various theories as to the identity of the killer. The only person to ever be arrested and stand trial, however, was Lizzie Borden herself. She and her sister Emma lived in the house with their stepmother, father and maid, Bridget Sullivan. While Andrew Borden was a very wealthy and successful man, he chose to keep his homestead in a less fashionable part of town to be closer to his business holdings. This fostered the idea to the "polite society" of the day that the Bordens, despite their affluence, were not quite the upper crust. With two unmarried daughters, many thought the situation some what less than idyllic; two single daughters should have a bit more to offer as far as social position to secure a good marriage. While some feel that the family situation was enough of a motive for one of the daughters to kill one or both of the parents, it was not proven to be as such at the trial. On August 6, 1892, the day that Andrew and Abby were put to rest in Fall River's Oak Grove Cemetery, Mayor John Coughlin announced that Lizzie Borden is a suspect. Following a grueling two-day inquest from August 9th to the 11th, she was arrested. Arraigned the next day, she pleaded "not guilty" and started her long stay at the Taunton Jail awaiting the seemingly endless process until her trial. During her incarceration, preliminary hearings and convening of the grand jury occurred before her indictment was official in December of 1892. Her infamous trial took place in the Bristol County Courthouse in New Bedford, Massachusetts and included testimony from such key witnesses as Bridget Sullivan, the housekeeper, Lizzie's uncle, John Vinnicum Morse (brother of Lizzie and Emma's birth mother Sarah Morse Borden), busybody neighbors such as Alice Russell, Dr. Seabury Bowen (the family doctor) and a slew of others who offered nothing more than what was to be determined as circumstantial evidence and hearsay. Lizzie Borden's biggest gaffes during the trial would be admitting the strained but cordial relationship she held with her stepmother (to whom she exclusively referred to as "Mrs. Borden") and changing the locations of her whereabouts at the times of the murders. She was a nervous, scattered inconstant witness who proclaimed her innocence throughout the ordeal. The trial lasted from June 5, 1893, and the jury reached a verdict on June 20. In 15 days, she was acquitted. Upon hearing the verdict Lizzie Borden simply stated, "Please take me home, I wish to go home now." While she was found innocent by the jury, polite society condemned and shunned her. She moved to "Maplecroft" a house in the "Highlands" portion of Fall River (a more upscale section of town) with her sister Emma and despite sharing the dwelling, Lizzie and Emma never spoke again. She was noted to "take up" with theater people (considered very low class in that era) and was especially fond of actress Nance O'Neill who lived out her years as her companion. Lizzie Borden is remembered most by the school yard rhyme which erroneously states: "Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one". From the lips of schoolchildren to the mouths of scholars, this case has lived on in history as the most fascinating, gruesome, unsolved murder in Fall River History and that of Victorian America.
Bio by: R. Digati
Daughter of Andrew Jackson Borden.