Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lizzie Borden

August 4, Continued

The next thirty-five minutes have been recounted in the description of the crime

11:15: Police received notification

11:30: Dr. Bowen arrived

11:45: Charles Sawyer, seven police officers and Medical Examiner William Dolan were on the scene

The police investigation began in earnest. Officer Mullaly asked Lizzie if there were any hatchets in the house. "Yes, she said. "They are everywhere." She then told Bridget to show him where they were. Mullaly and Bridget went down to the basement and found four hatchets, one with dried blood and hair on it cow's blood and hair, as it was later determined a second rusty claw-headed hatchet, and two that were dusty. One of these was without a handle and covered in ashes. The break appeared to be recent. This is the hatchet submitted in evidence.

Handleless hatchet
Handleless hatchet

About this time, Uncle John returned, strolling into the backyard, picking some pears and eating them. He had been asked by Andrew that morning to return for the noon meal. He later testified that he did not notice if the cellar door was open or closed.

Sergeant Harrington and another officer, having questioned Lizzie as to her whereabouts during the morning, examined the barn loft where Lizzie said she had been looking for metal for fishing sinkers. They found that the loft floor was thick with dust, with no evidence that anyone had been up there.

At 3:00, the bodies of Andrew and Abby were carried into the dining room, where Dr. Dolan performed autopsies on them as they lay on the dining room table. Their stomachs removed and tied, and sent by special messenger to Dr. Wood at Harvard.

Upstairs, Deputy Marshal John Fleet questioned Lizzie, asking her if she had any idea of who could have committed the murders. Other than a man with whom her father had had an argument a few weeks before a man unknown to her she knew of no one. When asked directly if Uncle John Morse or Bridget could have killed her father and mother, she said that they couldn't have. Uncle John had left the house at 8:45, and Bridget was upstairs when Mr. Borden was killed. She pointedly reminded Mr. Fleet that Abby was not her mother, but her stepmother.

Emma returned from Fairhaven just before seven that evening. The bodies of the Bordens were still on the dining room table, awaiting the arrival of the undertaker. Sergeant Harrington continued the questioning of Lizzie. Finally, the police left, leaving a cordon around the house to keep away the large number of curious Fall River citizens who had been gathered around the front of the house since noon. Bridget was taken to stay with a neighbor, Alice Russell stayed in the Bordens' bedroom, Emma and Lizzie in their respective bedrooms, and Uncle John in the guest room where Abby had been killed.

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