Lizzie Borden One of the Most Famous Unsolved Mysteries
Did Lizzie Borden murder her father and stepmother to claim her inheritance?
The murder happened in a time in American history when the country was captivated with the Ripper murders. Despite the evidence suggesting Lizzie Borden was the murderer of her father and step-mother, she was acquitted in August 1892. The jury deliberated for only 90 minutes.
Many people have heard of Lizzie Borden, such was her infamy. There was even a childhood rhyme made about her.
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one
The family lived in Fall River, Massachusetts, an affluent area of America. Lizzie’s father, Andrew despite being a wealthy man was considered frugal. Three years after her mother’s death, he went on to marry Abby Durfee Gray. It was largely believed by Lizzie that Abby had married her father for his money. Once the marriage occurred all Andrews inheritance would pass to Abby and her relatives in the event of his death. Both the Borden girls who were in their 30s and unmarried relied on their father for everything.
This was an important fact, if Abby died first, then the inheritance would go back to Andrew. On his death, Lizzie and her sister, Emma would inherit everything.
The murder of Andrew and Abby
Before the murder, Lizzie had become angry with her father for killing some pigeons in front of her. She had recently built a roost for them in the barn. Her father thought they would attract children, viciously killed them whilst she watched. This led to a family dispute and both sisters stayed away from the house for many weeks. It was reported by the maid, that the girls rarely ate dinner with their father and stepmother.
To add to the tension, before his death Andrew gifted real estate to various members of Abby’s family.
Lizzie’s sister was still out of town when the murders happened. The family maid was also outside cleaning the windows. These are the events as is known of the murder:
At 9 am Andrew, leaves the family house for his morning walk. After this Abby goes upstairs to change the guest room bed. The killer walks into the room and Abby is facing them, when the first strike happens. This is a blow to the side of the head with a hatchet, she turns and falls face down onto the floor. She is then struck another 17 times on her back and head.
At 1030 am Andrew returns from his walk and finds his key does not open the front door. The maid hears the knocking and goes to the door finding it jammed and chained. She later reports at this point she hears Lizzie laughing upstairs. When Andrew gains access to the house he asks where Abby is? Lizzie tells him that a telegram arrived and she has gone to visit a sick friend. No telegram is ever found to support this.
Lizzie claims that she helped her father out of his boots and coat, gave him his slippers where he lays down on the sofa for a morning nap. Crime scene photos will later show that Andrew has his boots on after the murder.
At 1110 am, the maid is called downstairs, by Lizzie, to say that someone has come into the house and killed her father. he was struck 10 -11 times with a hatchet. His eyeball is observed as being split open, which points to the fact he was asleep at the time of the attack.
Factors against Lizzie
In 1891, cash and jewellery were stolen from the master bedroom in the Borden home. It was an open secret that Lizzie was suspected as having been the thief. Lizzie also had been accused by several local merchants of shoplifting. Although theft is not murder, it calls into question the image of a perfect daughter.
The clever order that the couple were murdered in meant that the inheritance had referred back to Emma and Lizzie, not to any of Abby’s family.
It was found during the investigation that Lizzie had attempted to buy prussic acid, a poison, before the murders. She claimed at the time that it was for cleaning purposes.
During the interview, although Lizzie was calm and poised her story was constantly changing. She could never be precise on the details of the fateful morning.
On August 7, three days after the murders, Alice Russell observed Lizzie burning a blue corduroy dress in a kitchen fire. When asked about it, Lizzie explained that she chose to destroy the dress because it was stained with old paint.
How did Lizzie get away with murder?
At the time of the murder, there was little known about forensic science. Although police found many possible murder weapons, none could be identified as the actual weapon. Sloppy police work meant that none were removed for examination. It also meant that Lizzie’s room was never searched for evidence. Had it been, they may have discovered the bloody dress before Lizzie burnt it.
A witness Hyman Lubinsky would testify that he saw Lizzie leaving the barn at 1103. Lizzie claimed to have been in the loft of the backyard barn for 15 to 20 minutes looking for lead sinkers, for a fishing excursion. Police found the loft so stiflingly hot that it was difficult to believe anyone would voluntarily remain in such a place for as much as 20 minutes. They also found no footprints in the loft that could substantiate Lizzie’s story.
When Lizzie appeared at trial, she looked like an innocent school teacher. It was hard to imagine her as a cold-blooded killer. She was religious and had taught at the local Sunday school. The jury was fooled by her demure nature.
One factor that calls into question whether Lizzie was guilty. Five days before the trial, another axe murder happened in Fall River. The similarities were striking. Jose Correa De Mello was convicted of this murder, yet he has an alibi for the Borden murders.
There has been much speculation on why Lizzie Borden killed her father. The first is the most obvious, money. Other theories include that he abused her both physically and mentally. The incident with the pigeons would support this.
Another popular theory is that she was gay and had a lesbian relationship with the maid. When this was discovered by her father, Lizzie knew she had to do something.
Whether Lizzie killed her parents or not is one of the oldest crime mysteries. Although acquitted by a jury, public opinion found her guilty. Ignoring the taunts, Lizzie lived the high life until she died in 1927. She was buried in the family plot next to her parents. No one else has ever been linked to the murders and the case remains unsolved.