Life After Trial Murder and Lizzie Borden Part 1

About Lizzie Borden, a young woman accused of killing her family with a hatchet, account of the crime and trial.

LIZZIE BORDEN (1860-1927)

Before: The Borden household had never been a happy one, but by using separate staircases and eating at different times, the two girls-Lizzie and Emma-rarely encountered their father, Andrew, or stepmother, Abby, so the house was usually quiet. The only other person who lived in the house was Bridget Sullivan, the Irish maid.

Aug. 4, 1892, was a typically sweltering Massachusetts summer morning in Fall River. Sometime between 9:00 and 9:30, someone entered the guest bedroom on the second floor of the Borden house and proceeded to demolish Abby Borden's skull with 19 vicious swipes of the hatchet. Lizzie and Bridget were the only other people known to be in the house. For the next 90 minutes, both young women went about their business, each either not knowing of the body that lay in the house or doing a superb job of hiding that knowledge.

About 10:30, Andrew Borden returned from his business rounds and lay down for a nap on a sofa in the downstairs sitting room. Within minutes, someone slipped in and killed him with one swift hatchet whack. Then the murderer dealt nine more blows.

At 11:10, Lizzie found her father's body. Soon after, a neighbor found Abby's.

Lizzie was arrested for the murders a week later on the basis of a weak chain of circumstantial evidence. The trial took 13 days. One authority believes that the jury was swayed when the defense attorney, after having described the murders in bloody detail, pointed at his very proper, feminine, charity-working defendant and said, "To find her guilty, you must believe she is a fiend. Gentlemen, does she look it?"

It is likely that Lizzie was, indeed, innocent, but before the trial had even begun, the taunting nursery rhyme that has kept her name alive to this day was being chanted throughout Fall River by rope-skipping children:

Lizzie Borden took an ax,

And gave her mother forty whacks;

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her father forty-one.

That rhyme, as much as anything else, branded Lizzie Borden a murderess till the day she died.

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