The Lizzie Borden Murder Case Part 2

About the case of Lizzie Borden who was charged with murdering her family with a hatchet, her hunting and arrest.


Despite the family's considerable wealth, they lived in a declasse section of town, in a house without gaslight or even a bathtub. They had no library and few family friends. Lizzie Borden later testified that she had exchanged no more than a few words with her father or stepmother in the last 2 years. The 4 members. of the Borden family shut themselves up in their separate rooms, coming together only at mealtimes. On the morning of the 4th, the family sat down to a breakfast of 5-day-old mutton, mutton broth, rotten bananas, johnnycake, bread, cookies, and coffee. The temperature was a stifling 80deg outside, yet all the windows and doors in the house were locked shut. Mr. Borden wore his usual high-necked tight collar and undertaker's black wool suit. That was the uniform he was to be buried in.

The Hunt: After the murders had been discovered and the last of the sensation-hungry crowd had faded away, one member of the Fall River police department was left on duty at the house to protect the women. Although sketches and photographs were made in the death rooms, nobody searched the basement or cellar or the daughters' bedrooms. At the time of the crime, the Bertillon fingerprinting method was considered un-American and consequently wasn't used. Chemical tests for bloodstains were still unknown. A list of Lizzie's dresses was made and then lost. A list of all the blood spatters was lost and had to be rewritten from memory. In a corner of the cellar laundry 2 days later, a policeman found a small, handleless hatchet. The break seemed to be fresh and the blade recently cleaned with ashes. He put it back. Four days after its discovery, the hatchet was retrieved by order of the chief of police. It fitted the fatal wounds exactly.

At the inquest, suspicion suddenly focused on Miss Lizzie. By her own admission, she had attempted to purchase hydrocyanic acid at a local pharmacy, to "clean a sealskin coat." The substance, several professionals testified, is fatal in small doses, absorbed readily into the nervous system, and leaves no post-mortem symptoms. It is not used as a cleaning agent. The evidence, however, was ruled out at the trial because hydrocyanic acid was not the cause of death. But the day before the murders, she had puchased a small ax. The basement of the Borden house contained a small arsenal of axes and hatchets, but this in itself was not unusual. However, it was decided to detain Miss Lizzie in the city jail and try her for murder.

The day before her imprisonment, Lizzie was observed by a friend burning a dress similar to the one she had on the day of the murders. It had paint on it, she said.

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