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Did Lizzie Borden murder her family in 1892? 48 Hours on ID investigates

Lizzie Borden
A jury determined that Lizzie Borden would be incapable of murder. Pic credit: Public domain

48 Hours on ID are traveling back in time this Halloween weekend to investigate the case of Lizzie Borden and the crime of the century, the 19th century that is.

On August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden and his wife, Abby Borden, were discovered hacked to death with an ax at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts.

The Bordens were considered a successful family. They were reasonably well-off and were in a position to hire servants. Andrew had two adult daughters, Emma and Lizzie, who lived at the house. Abby was their stepmother.

Lizzie discovered the mangled body of her father, who was killed while sleeping on the sofa. She alerted the maid, Bridget, and after a search of the rest of the house, they found Abby in an upstairs bedroom.

Andrew had been struck ten times in the face, and Abby had been hit from behind 19 times. The murder weapon is assumed to be some kind of hatchet.

The suspicion slowly began to fall on Lizzie. Lizzie and the maid were the only people in the house; Emma was out of town. It then came to light that Lizzie had burned a dress a few days after the murders; she alleged it had been stained with paint, but the police wondered if it was an attempt to hide bloody evidence.

A hatchet was located in the Borden’s basement, but the police refused to check for fingerprints because they didn’t believe in the reliability of this new crime detecting technology.

Lizzie Borden inherited father’s money

The two Borden sisters were known to despise their stepmother Abby, and they feared that she was after their father’s money, which they had hoped to inherit themselves. This was considered a possible motive for murder, and Lizzie did, in fact, inherit a substantial sum on her father’s death.

Lizzie was subsequently arrested and put on trial. The court case caused quite a stir and was widely reported on in the media at that time. On June 30, 1893, Lizzie was found not guilty.

The all-male jury had ruled that there was a lack of evidence combined with their belief that an upper-class Christian woman just would not have had the ability to commit such a heinous crime.

There is a theory that Lizzie had actually tried to poison her family beforehand. The day before the murders, a woman matching Borden’s description had attempted to buy a powerful and lethal poison from a drugstore.

The woman told the clerk that she needed the poison to fix a sealskin coat; however, the clerk refused to sell her the concoction. This information was never told to the jury.

Lizzie Borden lived out the rest of her life in Fall River before dying of pneumonia in 1927. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts chose not to reopen the investigation, and murders remain a mystery to this day

More from 48 Hours on ID

Follow the links to read about more crimes profiled on 48 Hours on ID.

Haley Anderson was a nursing student at Binghamton University in New York state when her life was tragically cut short by ex-boyfriend Orlando Tercero. Tercero was angered that their relationship had ended, so he strangled Haley to death.

Is a shadowy figure called Yura head of an international crime gang of hired assassins called Besa Mafia? Or is it a scam who takes money from people who want someone killed? 48 Hours investigated the people who ordered hits online.

48 Hours on ID airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.

Jerry was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, but is now based in the UK. He specializes in true crime and entertainment news stories. When... read more
Jerry Brown


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