Lizzie Borden & the infamous axe murders (1892)

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Here is one of the early news stories about the double murder for which Lizzie Borden became notorious. It appeared in the Pittsburg newspaper just five days after the killings, and before Lizzie officially became a suspect in the deaths of her father and her stepmother. Even then, though, reporters knew that this sensationally dramatic tale would rivet the nation.

Lizzie Borden & the infamous murders (1892)

The millionaire murder mystery of Massachusetts becomes more weird and sensational every hour

Mrs Borden was killed an hour before her husband — The assassin must have waited in broad daylight with one victim for the return of the other they were killed with a hatchet, but other persons on the same floor claim to have heard no struggle — Suspicion rests on members of the family because it is difficult to see how anyone else could have accomplished the deed — The house not robbed — Progress of the investigation  — An inquest today  — A theory that both were drugged — Possible arrests.

No motive yet revealed for one of the most remarkable crimes of modern times

Special Telegram to the Dispatch

Fall River, Mass., August 8

The assassination of Millionaire Borden and his wife promises to become one of the most noted of modern murder mysteries. The discoveries and developments of each passing hour, instead of revealing the secret of the tragedy, only add to its weird and puzzling nature.

No motive for the crime has yet been ascertained, Mr Borden not being robbed, and nothing in the house being disturbed. There is still more to this. Neither the servant girl nor the people in the adjacent houses heard an outcry nor a sound of a struggle. Yet Mr Borden was in fair health and Mrs Borden was a robust, powerful woman. Therefore, it is argued, that either they must have been under the influence of drugs, or their assailant was a person of whom they had no fear.

More remarkable than this even, the results of the investigation satisfied Medical Examiner Dolan that Mrs Borden was killed at least an hour before her husband.

This appears from the statement of Dr Bowen, that when he arrived Mr Borden’s body was warm and the blood was flowing, but Mrs Borden’s body was cold and stiff During the hour that elapsed where was the murderer? He must have been concealed somewhere about the house. The murderer must, therefore, have stayed upon the very scene of his first crime, not knowing what moment it might be discovered and he with it, though immediately after his second murder be disappeared so amazingly that no one can guess how he went.

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Remarkable and mysterious features

Mr Borden owned a great deal of real estate, was president of a savings bank and had other interests, and the fatal morning, as usual, went about town looking after his affairs. All that is positively known about his taking off is quickly told. He started for home about 10:30. About 11:15 o’clock, his servant girl ran over to Dr Bowen, who lives just across the narrow street and told him that her master had been murdered. Dr Bowen, going with the girl, found Mr Borden lying dead on the lounge in the sitting room, his head mangled in the manner before described. A few, minutes afterward the body of the wife was discovered in a room upstairs, the second one from the street on the south of the house.

There were two persons in or about the house at the time of the murder. These were Lizzie Borden, the second daughter, and the servant girl, named Sullivan. District Attorney Knowlton reached here late this afternoon from Marion. Chief of Police Hilliard met him at the depot and drove direct to police headquarters with him. For five hours, the District Attorney, the Chief of Police, Medical Examiner Dolan, Mayor Coughlin and State Detective Seaver were closeted together in Marshal Hllliard’s private office.

A judge produces papers

Judge Blaisdell, who presides over the court of this district, dropped in for a few minutes’ talk with a big bulky envelope, and when he came out he had no envelope or papers with him. Dr Dolan drove to a private entrance to Marshal Hilliard’s office about 5 o’clock. He had with him a box covered with a lap robe. As he lifted the box from his carriage, a bundle fell out. It was Lizzie Borden’s dress, on which the police think there is a drop of blood. In the box among the other things was the ax which was found in the cellar of the Borden house, and on which there are stains, supposed to be blood stains. A patrolman entered a few minutes later with a register containing the names of all persons who had purchased poison recently in Fall River. He took the book direct to Chief Hilliard.

The conference opened with Chief of Police Hilliard beginning with the remotest clue and going over it thoroughly and running it down to the satisfaction of District Attorney Knowlton. It was learned that clue after clue was taken up and was, in turn, traced through to its end.

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Suspicion rests on the daughter

Chief Hilliard reserved the Lizzie Borden theory until the close. His purpose was to disprove all other theories, to open out all other clues and then suggest to the District Attorney that the Lizzie Borden theory was the only one left that could not be readily disproved. The whole ground was gone over. The premises were described, all the suspicions and evidence, direct and circumstantial, were laid before the Attorney.

After the entire case had been recited the advisability of making immediate arrests was discussed. It was found that while the evidence might indicate whom the police should arrest, yet it is hardly sufficient to guarantee the holding of the prisoner, not to mention a conviction. It is said late tonight, however, by good authority, that other evidence not yet brought by Marshal Hilliard will be laid before the District Attorney.

The inquest scheduled for today

It was decided to hold the inquest tomorrow morning. It is expected that the testimony and evidence brought out then will once and for all decide definitely whether any persons whose names are mentioned in connection with the case will be arrested.

State Detective Seaver, just coming from Marshall Hllliard’s room, said there would be no arrests tonight. The cordon of police guarding the Borden house are neither vigilant nor shrewd. It was supposed by them and believed by Marshal Hilliard that the servant, Bridget Sullivan, had been in the house from the time of the murder until today. The Dispatch reporter learned this evening that the girl left the house on Saturday afternoon and spent Saturday night, Sunday night and part of today at a Mrs Jessie Harrington’s house.

Her absence was not known to the police guarding the house until they saw her coming up Second street today. Marshall Hilliard was greatly vexed when he learned of the negligence of his men. It is argued that if the girl left the house before the police searched it on Saturday, she could have taken the hatchets with her, had she been so inclined.

>> See more on the next page: The search for a motive & a look at the hatchet…

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