Although Lizzie Borden is exonerated for the murders of her father and stepmother, she cannot escape the infamy and stigma the high-profile trial elicits. As an outcast of Fall River society, it follows her until the day she dies. For a time, Lizzie lives with Emma and they enjoy their father’s wealth. However, they eventually become estranged and never speak to one another again. It is not until they are buried side by side in a Fall River cemetery that they are reunited in death.
Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories show hosts Carter Roy and Wenndy Mackenzie follow Lizzie Borden’s trial and deliver their own verdict on the case.
Two days after the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, Boston police surprise the Borden sisters at home and ask them to stay in the parlor while they search the house for evidence. Lizzie insists that she must find a note her mother left but the police prevent her from doing so. Investigators check Lizzie and Emma’s clothing for blood and bag a broken hatchet as the possible murder weapon.
The police leave but come back later that night to tell Lizzie she is a suspect and will be called for an inquest in the coming days. Lizzie protests and proclaims her innocence. Emma and Bridget comfort Lizzie when the police leave.
News of the murder spreads like wildfire but the Fall River Herald speculates at first that a Portuguese laborer is under investigation, not Lizzie Borden. They even invented evidence to support their theory, until they find out about Lizzie’s odd behavior and find her to be a more intriguing suspect.
A Boston Daily Globe reporter talks to the local shopkeeper and learns that Lizzie tried to buy prussic acid right before the murders. While the Boston Daily Globe takes this information and runs with it, other papers focused on her involvement in the church and defended her as a good Christian woman.
When Lizzie is brought in for questioning by the district attorney, she is drugged and barely coherent, having been prescribed morphine for her nerves during the inquest. She is unable to answer even the most straightforward questions posed to her, and she is not allowed an attorney during her interrogation.
After three days, she is arrested and imprisoned.
Her trial begins in June of 1893. The prosecutor shows the court the skulls of the hacked murder victims and Lizzie faints. When she recovers, she begins to hyperventilate and is given more morphine to calm her nerves.
No poison or prussic acid is found in either Andrew or Abby’s bodies. It’s ruled that the illness the Borden family suffered days before the murders was from food poisoning. Much of the evidence seemingly stacked against Lizzie is ruled conjecture or coincidence.
Furthermore, several neighbors testified to seeing a strange man outside the Borden home and police reports contradict one another, casting doubt on the prosecution’s accusations against Lizzie. Bridget and Emma’s testimonies further support Lizzie’s plea of innocence.
Alice Russell is questioned about the dress Lizzie burned and an odd, ominous premonition about her father’s demise. The note Lizzie claims her stepmother left is never found by the police. Despite the prosecution’s efforts to prove her guilt, the jury finds Lizzie Borden not guilty.
Emma and the defense are jubilant. Lizzie cries and asks to be taken home.
Years later, on Bridget’s deathbed, she confesses to her sister that she lied in court for Lizzie’s sake. Bridget heard Lizzie on the stairs but couldn’t tell the truth knowing Lizzie would be hanged if found guilty. Bridget’s sister promises to never share her secret. One theory postulates that Lizzie and Bridget were lovers and that the latter lied to protect them both.
After the trial, Lizzie and Emma enjoy their father’s wealth and live in a home they call Maplecroft. Lizzie hosts lavish parties, to her sister’s annoyance, but it’s the party held in honor of actress Nance O’Neil, an alleged lover of Lizzie’s, that sends Emma over the edge. Lizzie and Emma get into an argument. Shortly after the party, Emma moves out and the sisters never speak again.
In 1927, Lizzie dies of pneumonia after a complicated gallbladder surgery and her sister dies nine days later. They are buried together at a cemetery in Fall River.