Andrew and Abby Borden, elderly residents of Fall River, Massachusetts, are found bludgeoned to death in their home. Lying in a pool of blood on the living room couch, Andrew’s face had been nearly split in two. Abby, Lizzie’s stepmother, was found upstairs with her head smashed to pieces.
The Bordens, who were considerably wealthy, lived with their two unmarried daughters, Emma and Lizzie. Since Lizzie was the only other person besides the housekeeper who was present when the bodies were found, suspicion soon fell upon her. Because of the sensational nature of the murders, the trial attracted attention from around the nation.
Despite the fact that fingerprint testing was already becoming commonplace in Europe at the time, the police were wary of its reliability, and refused to test for prints on the murder weapon—a hatchet—found in the Borden’s basement. The prosecution tried to prove that Lizzie had burned a dress similar to the one she was wearing on the day of the murders and had purchased a small axe the day before. But Lizzie was a sweet-looking Christian woman and the jury took only 90 minutes to decide that she could never commit such a heinous crime.
Although she was now an orphaned heiress rather than a convicted murderess, the media continued to portray Lizzie as the perpetrator. Her story is still remembered today mostly because of the infamous rhyme:
Lizzie Borden took an axe,And gave her mother forty whacks;When she saw what she had done,She gave her father forty-one.
Ignoring the taunts, Lizzie lived the high life until her death in 1927. She was buried in the family plot next to her parents.