Lizzie Borden was a small-town Sunday school teacher who was accused of the gruesome 1892 axe murders of her father and step-mother, Andrew and Abby Borden. A lifelong resident of Fall River, Massachusetts, Lizzie was tried and acquitted of the killings of in 1893, but a macabre children's rhyme has since become better known than the case itself:
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
The story goes that Andrew and Abby were chopped by an axe or hatchet multiple times on the morning of 4 August 1892, while the maid napped and Lizzie was -- she said -- in the barn. Speculation ever since has been fueled by the dramatic elements of the story: A respected community member (Lizzie) as the prime suspect; a resentful relationship with the step-mother, compounded by acrimony over money; the brutal crime itself (chopped to death by a hatchet!); rumors that the police bungled the investigation; and, significantly, coverage by the then-new nationwide press. Borden did not testify at her own trial, and she apparently was shunned by the townsfolk during her remaining years in Fall River. No one else was ever arrested for the crime. Hobbyists and historians have examined the evidence for more than a century, but nobody really knows the truth.
Lizzie was 32 years old at the time of the crime.