“She is either the most injured of innocents or the blackest of monsters.” so wrote Julian Ralph, reporting for the New York Sun, on the first day of Lizzie Borden’s trial, June 6, 1893. She was being tried for the savage murder of her father, Andrew Jackson Borden and his second wife, Abby, in their home at 92 Second Street, Fall River, Massachusetts, on August 4, 1892.
On the morning in question, besides Mr. and Mrs. Borden, there were only two other people in the house, or in the vicinity of the house - Lizzie Borden and their young Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan. Lizzie was tried for the murders and found not guilty. Years after her trial, Lizzie discussed the murders with her good friend Helen Leighton. Helen said that Lizzie definitely suspected someone. She had a theory, as to the identity of the killer, but, without the proof to back it up, was reluctant to name anyone. She may possibly have been afraid, in case they took revenge in some way. Was that someone Bridget Sullivan?
Today it seems utterly unbelievable that Bridget was never seriously considered as a suspect. But this was the Victorian era when domestic servants were considered insignificant and barely worthy of mention. There was the “she-couldn’t-have-done-it-because-she-was-only-the-maid” attitude.
The general reasoning at the time, and even today, was that Bridget had nothing to gain. Might it have been more a case of what did she have to lose? Was Bridget in imminent danger of being dismissed for some serious misdemeanor? We will never know now.
So sure were the police that Lizzie Borden was the killer, they never really looked for any other suspects. The case was as good as closed, and the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden remain one of the most famous unsolved cases in the annals of American crime.....until now.
Could this book, finally, provide the answer to this mystery? It recalls the events of august 4, 1892 and discusses the possible suspects. It describes what occurred after the double funeral and explains the build-up to Lizzie’s arrest, her trial and eventual acquittal. The story also goes back in time to review the various backgrounds of the Bordens. It looks into Bridget Sullivan’s background and what life was like for live-in maids of that era. Finally, it attempts to delve into the various theories, suspicions and conclusions relating to the murders.
I have referred extensively to the inquest and trial testimony of witnesses, as well as police witness statements, cross checking information. I have tried to let the testimonies of those involved in the Borden case speak for themselves.
I have found that these testimonies are like pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle and that, by fitting them together, a picture of what very probably occurred has taken shape.
This picture not only shows that it is highly unlikely Lizzie Borden murdered her parents, but that Bridget Sullivan was the only one who could have killed the Bordens that morning. It also strongly suggests what her motive for the murders may have been. And how she got away with it.