“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.”
That famous rhyme has been heard all throughout history since the incredibly vicious murder of Lizzie Borden’s parents in their own home in 1892. Lizzie was acquitted of the murders although many people still believe she committed the crime. In the end no one was actually charged for the murders, but even now people are debating who the real killer is.
Lizzie Andrew Borden was born July 19th, 1860 in Fall River, Massachusetts to Andrew and Sarah Borden. Her father was a successful property developer and he directed several textile mills including the Globe Yarn Mill Company. He also owned some commercial property and was both the president of the Union Savings Bank and a director of the Durfee Safe Deposit and Trust Company. Despite his success and wealth, Andrew was quite a frugal man. His home did not have indoor plumbing and did not spend money as those who were extremely rich did. Her mother eventually died in 1863 and three years later Andrew married Abby Durfee Gray.
Lizzie had an older sister named Emma and they both were raised religiously and attended the Central Congregational Church. Lizzie was extremely involved in her church which also included teaching Sunday school to children of recent immigrants, she was involved in Christian organizations such as the Christian Endeavor Society where she was a secretary-treasurer, and also social movements such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She was also a member of the Ladies’ Fruit and Flower Mission. She very much detested her stepmother and would often called her “Mrs. Borden” which indicated she did not feel close with Abby at all. Lizzie was convinced Abby was just after her father’s money and didn’t actually love him.
A lot of tension grew in the family months before the murder especially due to Andrew giving Abby’s family members various pieces of real estate. Lizzie and Emma demanded that they got a home as well and so they got the home they lived in before their mother died. They purchased it for $1 but a few weeks before the murders they sold it back to their father for $5,000 (which is like $133,000 today).
On August 4th, 1892 between 10:30 AM and 11:10 AM Andrew Borden was murdered in his living room while taking a nap while Abby Borden was killed between 9:00 AM and 10:30 AM in the guest bedroom. Lizzie and Emma usually cleaned the guest rooms but at the time John Morse, the brother of Lizzie’s deceased mother, was staying with them and had slept in so when he awoke Abby went up to make the bed. According to forensic investigation it seemed that Abby was facing her killer which she was first struck from the cut above her ear which caused her to turn and fall to the floor. She was then struck 17 more times in the back of the head until she finally was dead.
Andrew and Morse were in the sitting room after breakfast and chatted for about an hour. Morse left to visit a relative at around 8:48 AM and Andrew left for his morning walk around 9 AM. When he returned it was around 10:30 AM and his key failed to open the door so he knocked on the door for help. Bridget, the maid, tried to unlock the door but it was jammed. Later she claimed she heard Lizzie laughing from what seemed to be from the top of the stairs. This statement was significant since Abby was thought to be murdered first and was found upstairs in the guest bedroom. Lizzie of course denied it. Lizzie also gave two different accounts of her movements on that day. She said she was in the loft for about 20-30 minutes eating pears and that she went to look for an iron in the loft as well. Bridget Sullivan, the maid, said she was in her room on the third floor resting from cleaning windows when at around 11:10 AM she heard Lizzie calling to her from downstairs. She said someone had come in and killed her father. He had been struck around 10 or 11 times with a hatchet. One of his eyeballs had been split in two which suggested he was asleep when he was attacked. He was still bleeding which meant it was a very recent attack.
During the investigation, Lizzie was giving strange and contradictory answers to the police. At first she claimed she heard a groan or a scraping noise before entering the house, but two hours later said she heard nothing and didn’t think anything was wrong when she got inside. When she was asked where her stepmother was she said that Abby received a note saying she should visit a sick friend. She also said she thought Abby had returned and asked someone to go upstairs to check. Mrs. Churchill (a neighbor) and Bridget went upstairs and as they reached the halfway point they saw in the guest bedroom Abby lying facedown on the floor.
Many of the investigators did not like Lizzie because of how calm she was and that she kept changing her story about her whereabouts. However, no one checked her for bloodstains or properly searched her room. They found several axes in the basement one of which the handle was broke and was thought to be the murder weapon but at the time didn’t do much about it. A friend of the family, Alice Russell, entered the kitchen the day after the murders and witnessed Lizzie ripping up a dress saying she got paint on it and was going to burn it and it was never tested if there was blood on it nor was it confirmed whether or not it was the dress she wore the day of the murders.
Lizzie was initally tried and then aquitted based on not enough evidence and also the poor work of the police at the time but she remains still a suspect of the murders even to this day. Her behavior, the dress, and her accounts of her actions on her day still do not make sense but many people believe she was the one who murdered her parents in cold blood.