Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lizzie Borden: Misunderstood? Part 1

Image: Lizzie Borden, from her Wikipedia page

A new book by the curators of the bed and breakfast in Lizzie Borden's former house purports that she was "misunderstood" and that she was "probably not guilty."  The curators say that her private letters and the opinions of those close to her both point to the probability that she did not kill her father and stepmother in that house in the Victorian 1890s.  Also, they point out, the evidence was circumstantial, and the axe that she supposedly used had no blood on it, and the hair on it wasn't that of anyone in the family, including hers, her older sister's, or her father or stepmother.  And, after all, she was found not guilty.

I've read a bit on this case, and the work that stands out to me is Douglas's and Ohlshaker's The Cases that Haunt Us, which presents the facts, evidence, suspects and atmosphere of famous crimes, including those of Lizzie Borden, JonBenet Ramsay, Jack the Ripper, and others.  (I recommend this book immensely, and you can click on my Goodreads link above to read my review of it.)  Anyway, John Douglas, a popular profiler, is convinced that she did do it, and presents these reasons:

--If she didn't, who did?  Not a stranger breaking in: the stepmother had been killed 90 minutes before the father came home and got killed.  A stranger would not have been able to kill her, hide for 90 minutes with Lizzie, her sister Emma, and the live-in maid, all in the house, not seeing the murder or the stranger, and then kill the father with no one seeing or hearing it, and then leaving with nobody seeing him.

--Lizzie had the best motive of anyone: If the father died first and left everything to the stepmother, both daughters were worried that they wouldn't get anything from her.  This was a real possibility, as he was 70, very rich, and the probability that the stepmother would get everything was rather high.

--She'd said that during the murders, she'd been in the top loft of the barn, finding lead weights to make sinkers for an upcoming fishing trip.  But an officer soon went up there and found a heavy, undisturbed bed of dust on the floor.  No footprints at all to indicate that anyone had been up there.

--Lizzie changed from a blue dress to a pink and white dress while policemen were around.  What innocent person would be so unshocked that she would think to change up?  (And what kind of law enforcement would allow her to do so?)

--Bloodspots were found on her shoes and underskirts.  When asked to explain, she'd said it was due to her period, but later tests concluded that the underskirt was soaked from the outside in, not from the inside out.  (She'd called her period a "flea bite," a euphemism at the time.)

--Shortly before the murders, she'd tried to buy small amounts of poison from two pharmacies, neither of which would give them to her.  She'd denied being at these places, but a customer and pharmacist in one of them testified that she had been there.

--The morning of the murders, Lizzie, her sister, the maid, the stepmother and the father had all complained of bad stomach pains and other illness.  The father had to stop his morning business at his properties because, as he told a few people, he felt very ill.  They testified that it was very unusual for him to stop business due to any illness.

--Not evidence, just weirdness: The coroner wanted to do another autopsy, so after the funeral, he took the bodies, cut off the heads, unfleshed them and did his tests.  Then the heads were reburied with them, but at their feet!

To be continued in another post...

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