Lizzie Borden’s is now undoubtedly one of the most infamous murder suspects in the modern era
Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart star in Lizzie, an upcoming thriller that will premiere at Sundance on January 19. The film is about Lizzie Borden, a woman who was accused and acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe. Filming wrapped on Lizzie, which is directed by first-timer Craig William Macneill, over a year ago, and the details have mostly been kept under wraps. Stewart will star as Borden’s live-in maid and the film will theoretically cover both the murders and the highly-publicised trial of Borden, but without a trailer, it’s hard to know exactly how it’ll pan out.
What we do know is that Lizzie seals Borden’s fate as one of the most infamous murder suspects in the modern era. Since the 1948 ballet Fall River Legend, the story of Borden, her trial, and whether or not she really did kill her parents with an axe, has been retold through time in pop culture, plays, TV shows, operas, and films. Macneill’s film is not the first iteration of the infamous tale, but it looks to be an interesting one. For those less acquainted with the story, here are the basics to know ahead of the release:
WHO WAS LIZZIE BORDEN?
At the time of the murder, Borden was 32. She was born in Massachusetts in 1860 and had a pretty religious upbringing; she lived with her dad and stepmother, who she would be later accused of murdering, and they were relatively well off. During the trial it emerged that Borden didn’t get on with her stepmother and tensions were growing in the household over various disagreements. Borden, who never married, was rumoured to be a lesbian; an author once wrote that she had been having a relationship with the maid and that was why the murders took place. It looks, too, like this theory could potentially form part of the plot of the film, with someone as high profile as Kristen Stewart in the role.
WHAT HAPPENED THAT DAY?
While nobody knows still exactly what happened (or who committed the murders), some things are certain. On the morning of August 4 1892, Lizzie’s stepmother was murdered first, between 9 and 10:30am. Between 10:30 and 11:10am, her dad was murdered downstairs. Lizzie was the first to find her father’s body; she cried “Maggie, come quick! Father’s dead. Somebody came in and killed him!” at the maid, who ran in.
WHAT WENT DOWN AT THE TRIAL?
The heads of Andrew and Abby Borden were removed during post-mortem and made a shocking appearance at the 15-day long trial. When she saw the skulls, Borden is said to have fainted. There was a lack of forensic evidence, and the prosecution argued that Borden may have committed the murders while naked, to avoid any repercussions. In Borden’s favour was the fact that her original, contradictory testimony from an inquest was ruled as inadmissible. Borden did not take to the stand, and a jury of 12 men deliberated for an hour and a half before returning a not guilty verdict.
WHY DO PEOPLE STILL CARE SO MUCH?
It’s a bit mad that Borden’s story, despite taking place 126 years ago, is still being retold and reiterated through so many different mediums. The shocking, brutal, apparently sudden nature of the murders is interesting to people, but what really keeps the story in circulation is that the mystery is still unsolved. Borden, the prime suspect (and tbh the one who probably did it) was acquitted, and the conflicting details and testimonies from the trial make it interesting for the Making a Murderer crowd; amateur criminologists who like to think they know the answer from the comfort of their own home. It’ll probably never be solved, either, which is half the fun.