Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Testimony in Borden trial lacked murder weapon

By
From page A1 | July 03, 2013 | Leave Comment

Editor’s note: This is the third of six parts of “Lizzie Borden: Enduring Mystery,” which draws on a number of sources, including some material kept by one of Borden’s attorneys, Andrew Jennings. This marks the 120th anniversary of the homicide.

On the morning of Aug. 4, 1892, someone hacked Andrew and Abby Borden to death in their Fall River, Mass., home. The police said it was their daughter, Lizzie Borden. But the killer left no weapon near the bodies.

On June 9, 1893, the fifth day of Lizzie’s trial, the police testified they discovered the likely murder weapon – a hatchet – in the cellar of the Borden house the day of the murders.

Assistant City Marshal John Fleet said he examined two axes and several hatchets that day. Bridget Sullivan, the Bordens’ live-in maid, showed the police the tools.

One of the hatchets had a broken handle, Fleet told the court. It was covered on both sides with a fine dust or ash. The handle had been recently broken. Another hatchet with a claw had a red spot on it.

For weeks, newspaper stories about hatchets and axes had appeared, but Fleet’s testimony marked the first time the police and prosecutors said the probable murder weapon was found the day of the murder.

In all, a half-dozen police officers testified during the 13-day trial in New Bedford Superior Court.

“The police of Fall River told their story today,” The Providence Journal reported June 10 on the previous day’s proceedings. One by one, the investigators – those closest to “this tale of crime and horror” – took the stand to offer enough evidence to send Lizzie Borden “to her grave,” the newspaper said.

“All the details of that awful morning of August last were rehearsed with a terrible exactness, all the scenes in the ill-fated household were drawn in clear and startling colors with the vivid pencils of memory . . .”

In fact, the day the Bordens were killed, most of the city’s police were away at Rocky Point, a Rhode Island amusement park on Narragansett Bay.

Fleet learned about the murders around 11:35 in the morning of Aug. 4. At home tending to his sick wife, the 12-year veteran of the police force grabbed his coat and hat and drove a police buggy to the Bordens’ home, where he questioned Lizzie.

“I asked her if she knew anything about the murders,” Fleet testified.

She said all she knew was that Mr. Borden “came home about half past ten or a quarter to eleven, went into the sitting room, sat down in the large chair, took out some papers and looked at them.”

(At an earlier inquest, Lizzie said her father was reading The Providence Journal the morning he was killed.)

Lizzie, ironing handkerchiefs in the dining room, realized her father “was feeble” and helped him rest on the sofa, she told Fleet. She then went into the barn, where she stayed for a half-hour, she said. When she entered the house again, she discovered her father’s bloody body.

Fleet suggested two possible suspects to Lizzie. The first – John V. Morse, Lizzie’s uncle – had spent the night before at the Bordens’ house. Was he connected with the murders? Fleet asked.

No, Lizzie said. He left early in the morning and did not return until after the murders, she said.

How about Bridget Sullivan, the maid? Could she have murdered her employers? Fleet asked.

No, Lizzie said. Sullivan had gone upstairs to nap and was still there when Lizzie returned from the barn.

“I then asked her if she had any idea who could have killed her father and mother,” Fleet told the jury. Lizzie quickly corrected him, he said. “She said, ‘She is not my mother, sir; she is my stepmother; my mother died when I was a child.’ ”

But Lizzie did have an idea of who might have wished to harm her father. A potential tenant had showed up at the house two weeks before the murders. The man and her father had argued. “The man seemed to be angry,” Lizzie told Fleet.

Later on the day of the murders, Fleet and two police officers went to search Lizzie’s room.

Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, the Bordens’ family doctor, who had been called to the house earlier, opened the door slightly. Bowen asked Fleet what he wanted.

Fleet said he wanted to search the room.

The doctor closed the door and conferred with Lizzie.

He opened it and said Lizzie “wanted to know if it was absolutely necessary for us to search that room,” Fleet told the court. Fleet told Bowen that murders had been committed and “it was our duty to do so, and we wanted to get in there.”

The doctor opened the door.

Fleet and the other officers looked through drawers, a closet and the bedroom.

He then searched the maid’s attic room and closet. He also went inside the barn that day. Other investigators were in the barn, too.

Investigators searched under a hay pile on the barn’s north end.

Fleet said he returned to search the house again two days later with several people, including City Marshal Rufus B. Hilliard and Andrew J. Jennings, one of Lizzie’s defense attorneys.

They examined Lizzie’s dresses, he said.

Did you find a dress with paint marks on it, attorney William Moody asked Fleet.

No, sir.

Did you find any blood upon any dress?

No, sir.

Fleet and the other witnesses were cross-examined by Lizzie’s lead attorney, George D. Robinson. The 59-year-old former Massachusetts governor was well-connected and had a way of tripping up the prosecution’s witnesses, including Fleet, The Journal said.

He stood with the tips of his fingers on the defense table, “as if he was to play on a piano, instead of upon the feelings of a witness.”

Very shortly, the witness discovers he has said something he wished he hadn’t, The Journal said.

In cross-examinations, Robinson sought to show that the police did not search the house as diligently as they should have.

Robinson got Fleet to admit that he initially dismissed the broken hatchet as a possible murder weapon, despite the fact that he perceived a fresh break in the handle.

Under reexamination by Moody, Fleet said he had focused on a different hatchet because it looked like it had been washed.

THURSDAY: Evidence to the jury leaves question about Lizzie Borden’s role.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
Review set for $2M pizza case in Fairfield

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

Cherokee Nation to offer photo IDs at Rush Ranch

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A3

 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Accused machete attacker testifies in trial

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

 
Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

All Things Art Festival organizers seek artists, vendors

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Mother’s Day fair returns to Suisun waterfront

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

 
Report: Shots fired from car on Clay Bank Road

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A5

Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

 
Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11

Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jean Sophia Ruckdeshel

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Robert James Carty Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9