Did Lizzie Borden Take An Axe? Or Was It All Just 40 Big Misunderstandings?
Meet The Borden's
The Borden's were a moderately wealthy family living in Fall River, Massachusetts. The father, Andrew Jackson Borden, started his adult life as an undertaker but went on to invest in textiles and eventually become the owner of a large number of commercial properties. He was also the president of the Union Savings Bank and the director of the Durfee Safe Deposit and Trust at the time of the incident.
Sarah Anthony Borden was Andrew's first wife and the mother of his two daughters, Lizzie (born 1860) and Emma (born 1851). Sarah died at 39 years old in 1863, in 1865 Andrew was once again married. The new wife and step-mother to his children was Abby Durfee Gray.
The Borden family lived a rather frugal existence, considering their wealth, having no indoor plumbing in their home and often eating leftovers for many days at a time. The entire family had a great reputation in the town and were often considered to be pillars of the community, especially Lizzie and Emma, who were both known for their high moral standing within the community. Lizzie was a Sunday school teacher and the secretary treasurer at the local church she attended.
Pressures Build Within The Family
In 1891 tension had begun to build between the parents and daughters of the Borden family, mostly due to some very expensive gifts that had been given to various members of the Durfee family from Andrew Borden. Lizzie and Emma felt that the money was being squandered on distant in-laws while they were forced to live without basic necessities.
In 1892 the family had hit a boiling point in their personal feuding. The girls had stopped referring to their step-mother as family all together and would only call to her as Mrs. Borden when forced to communicate with her. Andrew had given the girls some of his rental property, to get them out of the house, but they soon sold the property back to their father for unknown reasons and moved back into the family home.
The Reaper Comes To Dinner
Mid-July 1892, the pigeons Lizzie had kept in the barn were found chopped to peaces early that morning, presumably by the axe that had been left standing in the corner, still coated in blood and feathers. At the time of the investigation it was thought that it had been done as a threat, or warning to Andrew, from an upset business associate or former employee, later most people would come to believe it was Lizzie herself that killed the birds.
Several weeks after the pigeon massacre both Andrew and Abby Borden became deathly ill with what was diagnosed to be food poisoning. The family's doctor had told the daughters that their parents had more than likely become ill from eating left over mutton that had set on the stove top for several days, but both Andrew and Abby swore that they had been poisoned and demanded an official investigation from local authorities.
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother 40 whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father 41.
The Borden family's illness never received that investigation, on August 4, 1982 Andrew and Abby Borden were both found brutally murdered in their own home. It was Lizzie who had called to police first, reporting to have found her deceased fathers mutilated body.
Upon their arrival the police found Andrew Borden slumped on his couch in the downstairs living room, his head had been nearly split in two by what appeared to be about 21 blows to the head with an axe type weapon.
While doctors were tending to Lizzie's shock from finding her fathers corpse the Borden's maid, Sullivan, came across the body of Abby Borden sprawled across the floor of an upstairs bedroom. Abby's skull had been smashed in by at least 20 blows to the head and was nearly unrecognizable, she was thought to have been killed about two hours before Andrew.
A recently cleaned axe head without a handle and various poisonous liquids were found in the basement upon further investigation of the home, and police claimed the killer must have removed the handle to hide any blood stained into it's wood. It wasn't even 24 hours before the police had their first and only suspect in custody for the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden.
Do you believe Lizzie murdered her family?
The Evidense Is Overwhelming But Charm Carries More Weight
The Borden family had no written will to legally divide their inheritance, Lizzie and Emma Borden were to be the sole recipients of the Borden fortune upon their death, and would be the only people to financially benefit from their parents untimely deaths. One neighbor reported to the police that she had seen Lizzie burning what appeared to be a blood stained dress in the stove merely hours after the homicide, when questioned about it Lizzie claimed to have bumped into some wet paint while wearing the dress and burning it was merely as a way to dispose of the ruined garment without a mess.
Lizzie had also been reported to have purchased a form of prussic acid at a local drug store several weeks before the murder. The acid was not used as evidence in the case because no poison was ever found in the victims stomachs during the autopsy, though many people involved in the case had claimed that a small amount of the acid could have still been used to cause the Borden's deathly illness without noticeable traces of it being found later in the autopsy.
Due to a lack of hard evidence and Lizzie's strong personal charm she was quickly acquitted of the horrid crime. It took the jury less than 90 minutes to decide that there was no way such a sweet young lady could perform such a brutal act, she was a victim and the murders were surely the work of a deranged madman.
Lost And Forgotten
After Lizzie was released no one else was ever charged or investigated for the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden. The police were convinced that they had already caught their killer and felt no need to continue the investigation.
Lizzie and Emma soon moved into a large modern home after receiving their fathers fortune and spent their large inheritance extravagantly. The sisters continued to live together until 1905, when an argument over a celebrity party thrown by Lizzie, for Nance Oneil, caused Emma to finally move out and on her own for the first time in her life.
Despite her ill-gotten fortune and brazen attempts to hang out with the rich and famous, Lizzie was never accepted back into her former respected status and was often the target of hateful local gossip. The entire town had become convinced of Lizzie's guilt, as had most of the nation. Regardless, Lizzie continued living in Fall River, Massachusetts until she died of pneumonia in 1927, all alone and mostly forgotten.