Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lizzie Borden

The Second Murder

In the meanwhile, the neighbor to the North, Mrs. Adelaide Churchill, saw that something distressful was happening at the Borden house. She called across to Lizzie, who was at the back entrance to the house and asked if anything was wrong. Lizzie responded by saying, "Oh, Mrs. Churchill, please come over! Someone has killed Father!"

Mrs. Churchill asked, "Where is your mother?"

Lizzie said that she did not know and that Abby Borden, her stepmother, had received a note asking her to respond to someone who was sick. She told Mrs. Churchill that Bridget was unable to find Dr. Bowen. Mrs. Churchill volunteered to send her handyman to find a doctor and to send him to a telephone to summon help. The police station, about four hundred yards from 92 Second Street, received a message to respond to an incident at No. 92 at 11:15 a.m.

diagram of the first floor of the Borden house, indicating the position of Mr. Borden's body (sitting room at middle right)
diagram of the first floor of the Borden house, indicating the position of Mr. Borden's body (sitting room at middle right)

After sending her handy man and informing a passer-by of the trouble, Mrs. Churchill returned to the Borden kitchen. Dr. Bowen had arrived, along with Bridget, who had hurried back from informing Miss Russell. Dr. Bowen examined the body and asked for a sheet to cover it. Bridget said, "If I knew where Mrs. Whitehead (Abby Borden's younger sister) was, I would go and see if Mrs. Borden was there and tell her that Mr. Borden was very sick."

Borden house on Second Street
Borden house on Second Street

Lizzie said, "Maggie, I am almost positive I heard her coming in. Go upstairs and see."

Guest bedroom as seen from the landing
Guest bedroom as seen from the landing

Bridget refused. Mrs. Churchill volunteered to go up and see if Abby had returned. Bridget reluctantly went with her. The two went up the front staircase together, and before they reached the landing they were able to see that Mrs. Borden was lying on the floor of the guestroom.

Bridget saw Mrs. Borden's body. Mrs. Churchill rushed by her, viewed the obviously dead body, and rushed downstairs, saying, "There's another one!"

Portrait of Abby Borden
Portrait of Abby Borden

Abby Borden was a short, shy, obese woman of 64, who had been a spinster until the age of 36, when she married the widowed Andrew Borden. She was devoted to her younger half-sister, Sarah Whitehead, to whom she had been a mother. Other than Sarah and Sarah's daughter, Abby, who had been named for her aunt, she appeared to have no other intimate relationships. She apparently provided, within the limits of Andrew's penuriousness, a comfortable home for her husband, who clearly appreciated her. Her stepdaughters were not particularly close to her. Lizzie, in fact, had been calling her "Mrs. Borden" for the past several years, rather than "Mother."

In the meantime, Alice Russell had arrived, and Dr. Bowen, having left for a brief time to telegraph Lizzie's older sister Emma, who was visiting friends in the neighboring town of Fairhaven, had returned, and resumed examining Andrew Borden's body. It was on its right side on the sofa, feet still resting on the floor. His head was bent slightly to the right and his face had been cut by eleven blows. One eye had been cut in half and was protruding from his face, his nose had been severed. Most of the cuts were within a small area extending from the eye and nose to the ear. Blood was still seeping from the wounds. There were spots of blood on the floor, on the wall above the sofa and on a picture hanging on the wall. It appeared that he had been attacked from above and behind him as he slept.

Portrait of Dr. Bowen
Portrait of Dr. Bowen

Dr. Bowen found that Mrs. Borden had been struck more than a dozen times, from the back. The autopsy later revealed that there had been nineteen blows. Her head had been crushed by the same hatchet or axe that had presumably killed Mr. Borden, with one misdirected blow striking the back of her scalp, almost at the neck. The blood on Mrs. Borden's body was dark and congealed.

Dr. Bowen was heavily involved in the activities on the day of the murder, diagnosing Abby' early morning distress and fears as food poisoning, checking on Andrew and the rest of the household shortly thereafter, being the first to examine the bodies, sending a telegram to Emma, assisting Dr. Dolan with the initial autopsies, prescribing sulphate of morphine as a tranquilizer for Lizzie in short, from about 11:30 a.m. on, he was a constant presence. His involvement with the family, particularly on August 4, has led to his being a major figure in some of the conspiracies developed around the murders.

Diagram of the second floor of the Borden house, indicating the position of Mrs. Borden's body (left corner room).
Diagram of the second floor of the Borden house, indicating the position of Mrs. Borden's body (left corner room).

Within minutes of receiving the call at 11:15, the City Marshall, Rufus B. Hilliard, dispatched Officer George W. Allen to the Borden house. He ran the four hundred yards to the house, saw that Andrew Borden was dead, and deputized a passer-by, Charles Sawyer, to stand guard while he went back to the stationhouse for assistance. Within minutes of his return, seven additional officers went to the murder scene. By 11:45 a.m., the Medical Examiner, William Dolan, passing by the Borden house and noting the flurry of activity, was on the scene.

Thus, the discovery of at least one murder happened at 11:10 a.m., and within the next thirty-five minutes, the authorities were on the scene.

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