Fall River, MA

History’s Villains: True Crimes

William Saint Val

Suspected Killer

Lizzie Borden, 1889.Public Domain

“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks”

Lizzie Andrew Borden was an American woman who was tried and acquitted for the 1892 murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Lizzie Borden was born in 1860 in Fall River to Sarah Anthony Morse and Andrew Jackson Borden. She was the second child of Sarah Anthony and Andrew Jackson Borden. Her father was a successful businessman who owned a hardware store and several properties in Fall River.

Lizzie’s mother died when she was only two years old, and her father remarried Abby Durfee Gray soon after.

Lizzie grew up in a comfortable home with her sister Emma. However, relations between the sisters and their stepmother were strained from the start. This caused tension within the family, which came to a head on August 4th, 1892, when Lizzie's father and stepmother were found brutally murdered in their home with multiple axe wounds to their heads.

Paltry evidence pointed to Lizzie, and she soon became the prime suspect in the murder investigation. Lizzie was arrested and charged with their deaths despite there being no eyewitnesses or concrete evidence linking her to the crime scene; she maintained her innocence throughout questioning by police detectives and during her trial, which began on June 5th, 1893.

After a highly publicized trial that lasted nine days, she was ultimately acquitted due largely to inconsistencies in witness testimony.

Despite being found innocent by a jury of her peers, many people still believed that Lizzie had committed the murders, and she remained under suspicion for the rest of her life. She never married or had children, living out the rest of her days as a recluse in Fall River until her death in 1927.

The Borden murders and trial gained so much attention in the United States that it was memorialized in a 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.”

As well as being immortalized in a folk rhyme, the gruesome murders were an inspiration for several works of fiction.

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