The hatchet murders of Andrew and Abby Borden in their Fall River, Mass. home in broad daylight on August 4, 1892 is the most compelling and mystifying case in the annals of classic, unsolved murders. Although 32 year old Lizzie, the younger daughter, was brought to Trial, she was acquitted and no one else was ever charged. After 121 years, the case still fascinates people all over the world. Why is that?
Every time there is a new book, documentary, news article, etc. about the case, the inevitable question comes up: “Why has this case endured?” The answers are usually speculative responses referring to the Victorian era, the possibility of incest, lack of blood on the accused, lack of a murder weapon, the time between the two murders, the accused being a virginal Sunday school teacher, the accused being a “Borden” when Bordens were the power elite in the town, the gruesomeness of the hatchet blows, the theme of the hated stepmother, etc., etc. But that’s not it. The following is.
A single statement made by the Prosecuting Attorney and the Defense Attorney best encapsulates forever exactly WHY THIS CASE ENDURES:
The Preliminary Hearing was held on August 25, 1892 at the Second District Courthouse in Fall River. During their Opening Address, Prosecutor Knowton and Defense Attorney Jennings made the following statements.
“It was an incredible crime. It was an impossible crime. And yet it happened.”
-District Attorney Hosea Morrill Knowlton
“She is either the most maligned creature on earth or she possesses a heart as black as hell itself. Does she look it?”
-Defense Attorney Andrew Jackson Jennings
After almost 121 years, these statements remain relevant on two levels: Knowlton’s statement is the reason it has compelled three generations to study and speculate how it could have been done. Jennings statement remains as a premise for those who believe she didn’t do it, and those who believe she did.
These simple, one sentence statements best encapsulates forever exactly WHY THIS CASE ENDURES.