Acquitted in one of the most mysterious murder cases in American history, Lizzie Borden was accused and tried for brutally stabbing her father and step-mother to death. Even after 120 years of her acquittal, the case of Lizzie Borden continues to be of intrigue to researchers and historians. A spinster at the age of 32, Lizzie allegedly had a ‘sour’ relationship with her step-mother and feared she would not be given her share of inheritance in her father’s property. She was the only suspect in the case and the jury believed that she had reasonable motives for the murder. The case aroused widespread controversy, public debates and in an era where the notion of women murderers was unheard of, Lizzie became a media sensation and the gruesome slaughters shocked the community in Fall River. Even after the jury declared Lizzie innocent, she was treated as an outcast and her neighbors often whispered denigrating remarks about her character. The house where the murder took place is now converted into a hotel called ‘Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast’ and centuries after the murder guests throng in large numbers to stay at the hotel and get a taste of the same breakfast menu that the Borden’s ate on the day of the murder! This unsolved case and its long dead suspect continues to interest people all over the world.
Childhood & Early Life
Lizzie Andrew Borden was born in Fall River, Massachusetts to Andrew Jackson Borden, a wealthy and successful property developer and Sarah Borden, who died after her birth.
After three years of her mother’s death, Andrew Borden remarried Abby Durfee Gray. The family lived together along with her elder sister Emma at their Bungalow in Fall River.
She and her sister Emma had an orthodox and religious upbringing and she regularly attended the Central Congregational Church. She taught at Sunday school as a young woman and involved herself in church activities.
She was actively involved in Christian organisations like the Christian Endeavour Society and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
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Offences & Incarceration
On August 4, 1892, the day of the murder, her father had a breakfast with his wife and left for his usual rounds at the bank and post office. As usual she and her sister did not eat breakfast with the family.
She ordered her maid to clean the windows on the ground floor after which the maid took a bit of a rest on the third floor. Meanwhile Lizzie went up to her step-mother’s bedroom and, allegedly, killed her with a hatchet by repeatedly hacking at her skull.
Her father returned home at 10.45 a.m. and while he took a nap on the couch in the downstairs sitting room; she approached him and, allegedly, stabbed him 11 times with a hatchet.
On August 11, 1892 she was arrested on the grounds of murder and was tried by a grand jury, who heard the case form November 7th to December 2nd.
She was tried in June that year at the New Bedford and the prosecution attorney for the case was Supreme Court Justice, William H. Moody.
The parties defending the case were Andrew V. Jennings, Melvin O. Adams, and former Massachusetts governor George D. Robinson.
On June 20, 1893 the jury declared that she was not guilty of the crime and therefore acquitted her.
Other than her, no one was charged for the murders and her sister Emma was not in town on the day of the murder.
Some sources claimed that, Bridget Sullivian, the maid on duty that day, was angry because she was ordered to clean windows on a hot summer day and murdered the couple.
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In 1897, she was accused of shoplifting in Providence, Rhode Island. This incident degraded her reputation further in the society.
On the morning of August 4, 1892, she allegedly murdered her father and step-mother by repeatedly mutilating them with a hatchet at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. She was arrested and tried for the murders and was finally declared not guilty.
Personal Life & Legacy
She did not share a close relationship with her step-mother and often refused to have meals with the family and suspected that her step-mom’s family wanted to gain access to her father’s wealth.
She and her sister did not address her step-mother as ‘mother’ but rather referred to her as ‘Mrs Borden’.
After she was declared innocent by the jury, she moved to a luxurious house, called ‘Maplecroft’ in the elite neighbourhood of the ‘Hill’ in Fall River along with her sister Emma.
She lived a luxurious life with live-in-maids, housekeepers, coachmen and cooks to tend to her and her sister.
Her elder sister Emma was fiercely protective of her and together they both managed the rental properties owned by their father.
It is said that she was romantically involved with actress Nance O Neil.
She fell seriously ill a year before her death and had her gall bladder removed. She died at the age of 66 due to pneumonia at her home in Fall River.
In 1975, a television movie based on the life of Lizzie Borden premiered on ABC network.
In 2012, a horror film titled ‘Lizzie’ was directed by David Dunn Jr., the movie was an adaptation of the Lizzie Borden murder case.
The ‘Andrew Borden House’ has been restored to ‘Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast’, where guests can stay overnight, take a tour and enjoy the same kind of breakfast the Borden’s ate on the day of the murder.
This infamous murder convict was mentally ill and some say that she was under the spell of spirits when she allegedly murdered her parents.