Before the Crime
In 1889 the Borden family acquired an Irish immigrant girl by the name of Bridget Sullivan, to help with the household chores. She was responsible for the downstairs tasks and grounds work. Except for her small bedroom on the second floor, she was not allowed to enter or tend to the upstairs rooms. Only Abby Borden tended to the family’s bedrooms. Being of Irish heritage, she was looked down upon as of lower class. Lizzie and Emma may have taken her into their confidence, but certainly Andrew and Abby would have treated her like the second class servant that she was hired to be.
On June 24, 1891 a daytime robbery occurred in the Borden house with cash and jewelry supposedly taken. Though nobody was ever charged with the robbery, Andrew and Abby believed that Lizzie was responsible for it. Lizzie, Emma and Bridget were home at the time of the robbery, and even though Bridget could not be trusted because of her servant status, Mr. and Mrs. Borden sensed that Lizzie was the prime suspect in the disappearance of the items. From that point on, all the doors throughout the house were to be kept locked at all times. Nobody could be trusted, not even family.
Lizzie had been keeping pet pigeons in the barn for some time. One of Lizzie’s characteristics was a strong love of animals and she seemed to enjoy taking care of the birds. But in May or June of 1892, Andrew Borden went on a rampage and killed the pigeons with a hatchet he had acquired. No reason was given for Andrew’s sudden actions and they did seem out of character for him to do. The hatchet that turned up after the murders was explained by Lizzie as being used to kill the pigeons.
In July of 1892 Emma and Lizzie got into a verbal altercation with Andrew and Abby. Emma made the decision to remove herself from the house for a period, going to stay with the Brownells, friends and distant relatives of the Bordens, in Fairhaven, about fifteen miles away from Fall River. It was here that Emma was staying when the murders of her father and stepmother occurred. Her distance at the time of the crime certainly played a role in keeping her safe from finger pointing. Lizzie was not so lucky.
In the late night hours of August 2, 1892, Andrew and Abby suffered from terrible stomach pains that gave a rise of fear to Abby. Explained as such:
“Abby Borden was not known as an alarmist, nor had she, as far as we know, ever expressed to anyone any fear for her personal safety or well-being. Early on August 3, however, she was in a panic for her life. Just after 7:00 A.M. she appeared in Dr. Seabury W. Bowen’s office, which was almost directly across the street from her own house. She told him she feared for her life and was sure the entire family had been poisoned. She outlined in graphic detail the horrible night both she and Andrew had spent and underlined her own illness by vomiting ungraciously in his office. Dr. Bowen was most comforting, told her he guessed it was nothing serious, did agree that she “looked sick,” and sent her home.” (Brown, p. 62)
It was known that Lizzie, later that morning, tried to purchase some poison from Eli Bence, who worked at D.R. Smith’s drug store. The purpose of the poison, she explained, was to treat a sealskin cape to protect it from moths. She was refused the request, being told that she would need a doctor’s prescription to purchase the chemical. She supposedly stated that she had purchased it before and left. The need for poison at the same time that Abby Borden was voicing fears of being targeted left questions that arose after the murders were committed.
That evening Uncle John Morse stayed the night at the Borden house. He was the brother of Andrew Borden’s first wife Sarah, and he had stayed on good terms with Andrew. When he visited Fall River, where he was born, he made a habit of staying with his former brother-in-law. Lizzie supposedly felt uncomfortable around him and primarily stayed in her room while he visited. He did have breakfast the next morning before heading out on his travels. He was gone from the house before the murders took place.