“Oh, Mrs. Churchill, do come over. Someone has killed father.”
With those words — called across a yard to a neighbor, on a summer day in 1892 — a woman named Lizzie Borden entered history as villain, victim, punch line and the media sensation of the Gilded Age.
By the next morning, 1,500 gawkers had gathered outside the Borden house in Fall River, Mass. There was soon speculation that Jack the Ripper had come to America.
Someone had killed father — and stepmother, too. Their bodies were discovered hacked to death; his, lying on the couch where he had been napping; hers, facedown in the spare room, bludgeoned almost twice as many times.
“There was something about the locked-room mystery of the Borden murders that turned everyone into an amateur detective,” Cara Robertson writes in “The Trial of Lizzie Borden,” her enthralling new book, almost 20 years in the making.
A former legal adviser to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, she draws upon court transcripts, unpublished reports and Lizzie’s recently discovered letters to tell the story chronologically, from murder to verdict to the case’s long, strange afterlife.
Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times
By Parul Sehgal
Lizzie Andrew Borden (July 19, 1860 – June 1, 1927) was an American woman who garnered notoriety as the main suspect in the August 4, 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts. Borden was tried and acquitted of the murders.
The case was a cause célèbre and received widespread newspaper coverage throughout the United States. Following her release from jail, where she was held during the trial, Borden chose to remain a resident of Fall River despite facing ostracism from the other residents. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts elected not to charge anyone else with the murder of Andrew and Abby Borden. Even though the crimes occurred 126 years ago, speculation about the crimes still continues. She spent the remainder of her life in Fall River before dying of pneumonia, aged 66, just days before the death of her sister, Emma.