21 Sep

Fall River Police Chief John M. Souza

On the wall of the Administrative offices at the Fall River Police Department are these photographs of the past City Marshal’s and Police Chiefs.

  • Rufus B Hillard – City Marshal – 1886-1909 (top left)

  • John Fleet – City Marshal – 1909-1915 (bottom left)

  • (Change from City Marshal to Chief of Police)

  • William Medley – Chief of Police – 1915-1917 (center)

  • Martin Feeney – Chief of Police – 1917-1931 (top right)

  • Abel Violette – Chief of Police – 1931-1946 (bottom right)

Four of the five were involved in the Lizzie Borden case and had been in her house. Lizzie damn near outlived them all.

On November 14, 2000, through the courtesy of then Lt. Charles Cullen of the Fall River Police Department, I was allowed access to the police records books of the mid 1880’s through the early 1900’s. They were under the control and possession of Administration Lt. (now Deputy Chief) Cathleen Moniz.

When I arrived she had them laid out on her desk along with “all the remaining documents we have on the Lizzie Borden case”, which was miniscule at best. She was kind enough to let me handle, research and photograph these important ledger books. Lt. Cullen had also arranged for me a tour of the new police facilities (completed in March of 1997) which included their huge evidence room. High on a shelf was the camera long thought to have been “the” camera which photographer James Walsh took of Andrew and Abby – the crime scene photos – both just prior to and after the initial autopsies done at 92 Second Street around 4:00 pm, August 4, 1892. As has been learned, while the camera in possession of the FRPD is indeed a police photographer’s camera very similar to that one used on August 4th, it is not the camera, but one donated by a family member of a deceased police photographer.

In March of 2007, I contacted Deputy Chief Moniz once again and asked if she could arrange for the Arrest Record Book be brought out again so as to show to my friend, Shelley Dziedzic. Again, Deputy Chief Moniz had them laid out and allowed us to take pictures. She even gratiously took a photo of Shelley and me with the book.

Unexpectedly, having heard of our visit and plans to do a Lizzie Borden Conference, Police Chief John M. Souza, Fall River Police Chief since 2000, came into the room and spent an hour discussing the Borden case with us as well as other high profile murder cases. We delighted in his conversation regarding police forensic investigations as contrasted in the Borden case of 1892, to modern police forensic techniques used today. He instructed Deputy Chief Moniz to take us down to the “vault” where “historical” police records are stored. (For security reasons, I’ll refrain from describing the room or it’s safeguards.) While there it was interesting to learn that most all of the historic police files were lost in flood damage and, where the Borden case is concerned, also due to pilferage decades ago. Now the Department has rigid policies and procedures to protect and preserve case documents.

Lizzie’s arrest entry

Subsequent to the Preliminary Hearing of probable guilt, the entry of “Prob.” was handwritten over the standard “Guilty” column.

Jose Corriero murdered Bertha Manchester in Fall River with an axe on May 30, 1893. The papers reported this other hatchet murder the following day prior to the Borden Trial jury being sequestered. On June 3rd, 19 year old Jose was arrested and booked. (Note different spellings of his name. I took note of the fact he was born on January 8th, same as me.) The year of his birth is recorded as 1874, which would make him 19 on June 3, 1893, but the ledger shows age 18.

That a suspect was in custody was not known to the jury as they had been sequestered by the time it was reported in the papers, which they were not allowed to read. Thus, in the minds of these mostly farmer jurors, a hatchet yielding maniac was still on the loose and could have been – by golly – the same one that murdered old Andrew and Abby.

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  1. ed howerton

    June 12, 2008 at 9:10 PM

    I was wondering since Lizzie lived until 1927
    if there was ever a tape recording of her
    speaking of the murder that could be analyzed
    for truthfullness.

  2. phayemuss

    June 12, 2008 at 11:50 PM

    No, there is no known voice recording of Lizzie. She rarely spoke of it, and only in terms of her avowed innocence. The only person she ever named as a suspect was her father’s sister’s husband, Hiram Harrington. When he died, Lizzie supposedly said it was her last chance to prove her innocence or words to that effect.

    I think her Inquest Testimony itself is our legacy of her truthfulness! 🙂

  3. Dlester

    September 22, 2008 at 10:11 AM

    I was wondering since Lizzie lived until 1927
    if there was ever a tape recording of her
    speaking of the murder that could be analyzed
    for truthfullness.

  4. thepromar

    September 22, 2008 at 12:53 PM

    this one is ok. i kinda like it. its not really a mystery though. i cant say much about this though. i know for a fact that there was no recording of her voice though. hte cowboys won yesterday this probally has something to do with it because i cant focus BECAUSE THIS IS BORING.. and i want to talk about football… the bills are going to win the superbowl 32 to 17 against ?

  5. phayemuss

    September 22, 2008 at 4:42 PM

    Today was a group school project and you are the only one with your mind of football instead of Lizzie Borden. GOOD FOR YOU, DUDE! 🙂

  6. Beverly Patt

    March 23, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    I realize this post was 3 years ago but am just reading it now and wondering – what if Jose was NOT really guilty? “Immigrants” were not exactly looked very highly upon and there could have been a language barrier or a forced confession…?

  7. kristina

    May 30, 2014 at 12:32 AM

    He recanted both his confession and his plea, and was pardoned 20 yrs later and jumped ship to the Azores immediately after. I can’t find info on why he was pardoned, but it does seem odd to have two home-invasion axe murders within a year of one another…and then silence. What boggles me is that they didn’t revisit the Borden case in the least, according to all the letters and memoirs I’ve read, even though both prosecutors doubted they could or should get a guilty verdict. Knowlton even wrote to the attorney general wishing that he hadn’t been given such a dead end case, and yet absolutely no effort (that I can discover) was made to connect the two. It couldn’t be that Jose knew to copy since he had only just arrived and we have no idea if he could read (or read English). So why didn’t the cops see if the two were linked? It’s really unbelievable.


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