Monday, July 19, 2010

July 19, 1860

...150 years ago...


...Lizzie Borden was born in Fall River, Mass.

According to the children's rhyme:
"Lizzie Borden took an axe, And gave her mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one."
That's a simplified version of the story. Also, it's pretty slanderous. Who says she did it? We need attribution. It's not up to children's rhymes to convict this woman. That's the jury's job. Let's be a little more responsible here.
"Lizzie Borden allegedly took an axe, And was suspected of giving her step-mother forty whacks.
And sources say that when she saw what she had reportedly done, She was accused of giving her father forty-one."
There. Much better.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Borden called up to Bridget Sullivan, her family's maid, who had been lying down in her third floor bedroom. Borden had discovered her father's dead body in the sitting room. Later, her step-mother's body was discovered. They had both been killed with a hatchet.

Who killed Andrew Jackson Borden and Abby Durfee Borden?

Well, Borden was said to have motive. She shared the house with her father, step-mother and sister. However, the sisters' relationship with the father was strained because he had recently decided to split his property with his second wife and her relatives. The sisters had gone away on a vacation to let the family situation cool down, but Lizzie returned early.

I'm no expert on killing people with hatchets, but I imagine it would be pretty difficult to do so without blood getting everywhere. No bloody clothes were found anywhere in the house. However, Borden reportedly ripped up and burned one of her dresses in the oven. She claims that she had ruined it by getting paint on it. I don't know. That seems a little fishy.

Borden was arrested a week later, but the prosecution did not have too strong of a case. While this mystery dress was a bit suspicious, there was no murder weapon. A hatchet was found in the house, and it was assumed that it was the weapon used in the killings, but it had been completely cleaned. It didn't seem possible that Borden was able to completely clean it in time.

At this point, the Fall River Police didn't believe in this new forensic technology known as fingerprinting, so prints on the hatchet's handle were not taken. If fingerprinting were out of the question, then I really don't know what was considered forensic science. I imagine detectives still made ridiculously cheesy one-liners, though.


The jury took just 90 minutes to deliberate. Borden was acquitted and her good name was cleared.

Except for that one children's rhyme that said that she brutally killed her parents with a combined 81 blows with an ax. I guess that's a pretty horrible thing to accuse something of.

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