The Evening Standard—Tuesday, August 9, 1892 Page 2
DONE WITH THEORIES.
District Attorney Knowlton
Consults with Police.
Authorities Now Consider Nothing
Reasons for the Government’s Action
from the First.
Policeman’s Startling Discovery
in Loft of the Barn.
They Have Knowledge that Has Not
Been Given to the Public.
Yesterday was the first day since the fiendish murder in Fall River, whose morning hours developed nothing of importance so far as the public was concerned. Speculation regarding the various theories advanced went on just as it has gone since last Thursday forenoon at 11 o’clock, but it brought nothing to the surface worth a line. As nearly as can be ascertained, it is a mistake to assume that sentiment has shifted in respect to the suspected persons. Sentiment is fickle enough, it is true, and when a community is wrought up to a tremendous pitch of excitement and stands ready to pivot as that community stands, it might be expected that the consensus of opinion would veer with every breath, but in this case it hasn’t. It should be borne in mind that the friends of the Borden family have rallied to their support and that their influence is naturally making itself felt in certain quarters, but they have not yet disarmed the frightful suspicion which was or originally raised, cruel and groundless though it may be. But one change has taken place so far as the city as a whole is concerned, and that is a change of opinion as to the final outcome.
It is a change which might have been anticipated Saturday afternoon when, after the funeral of the murdered couple, no arrest took place, though for hours there had been reports, which led to the belief that a number of persons would be taken into custody. People are becoming confirmed in the view that there will never be a conviction and sentence. Four days and a half have passed and nothing but circumstantial evidence, pure and simple, had been gathered. The only conclusion possible was that there was no evidence of any other nature. It was an unpleasant conclusion to reach, and men didn’t arrive at it cheerfully, but they were forced to accept it. They saw but one bright spot and that was a tiny one. The government might
Sooner or Later Strike a Clew
which would put them on the track of the assassin, and he might break down and confess. But if he had no confederates and he kept his own counsel, he was safe. Such was the course of reasoning pursued yesterday, and it appeared to be logical. There was no occasion to modify it unless the police and detectives and the State officers had a secret of their own. It is only fair to observe, right here, that the police have been terribly in earnest, and that they have worked efficiently and effectively. They have been criticized as they undoubtedly expected to be, but perhaps they have been criticized unjustly. At the start they were caught at a disadvantage; they were the victims of circumstances which could entangle them but one day in 365, and they made a mistake. They did not take sole and immediate possession of the premises, house, barn and yard, and mount a guard in every room. It may have been a fatal mistake, but that is a matter that no human being can pronounce upon. It might be well to bear in mind, too, that they had to deal with a horror calculated to stagger any force in the world, what ever its training or experience. Not an unparalleled horror, it may be, but one with very few equals, and the false step taken during the first hour of commotion attendant on the discovery was not surprising. They recovered their self-possession, however, and have since left no stone unturned and no clew undisturbed which could help them to break the silence in which the mystery is shrouded. It is safe to assume that
They Have Threads in Their Possession
which have not appeared in print, not many, because the papers have been close on the heels of every new turn and twist which the case has made, but one or two.
The police probably can tell the story of Miss Lizzie Borden’s movements from 9 o’clock until 11 o’clock on the morning of the tragedy; that would be interesting reading, but the press representatives have only accounted for 20 minutes of that time. The police also must be aware of Bridget Sullivan’s doings on that morning. She has undoubtedly informed them when she prepared the breakfast and washed the dishes and climbed the stairs to the third story which hid her from sight and shut the sound of her falling mistress from her ears. There are many details in a case like this, and not one of them is unimportant. The public hasn’t been told when the servant last saw Mrs. Borden, and it has no inkling of her observations on the second floor as she passed up to clean the window under the roof. And so the police may be in possession of several points which throw light on the slaughter for them.
Their activity yesterday was in marked contrast to their apparent apathy of the day before. The word apparent is used because in all probability they did not rest, although there were less bustle at headquarters than usual. Yesterday, however, all hands were on the alert. Besides the guard at the house, officers in citizens’ dress parade in and out of the station in Court square, other officers, also in citizens’ dress, drove in various directions, returned and drove off again; the State officers were busy, Marshal Hilliard was giving directions when he was not in consultation with his subordinates and assistants. Andrew J. Jennings, counsel for the Borden family, called and failed to find the Marshal in his office, and every now and then a deputy sheriff would appear on the scene. Through all one thing was apparent, and it was significant. Neither the marshal, nor the state officers, nor the patrolmen, nor detectives were following clews which led them outside of the city limits. It was plain to all in touch with the situation that the
Combined Energies of the Government
Were Directed to One Spot
and that they were bringing every resource to bear on one point. As stated, no detail is too unimportant to be dismissed without study. The police had read the theory to the effect that Mrs. Borden was not killed by the first blow and that her murderer escaped by the basement door, which is usually locked, and which was found open after the tragedy. They consulted physicians and then they settled back into the belief which had been theirs since last Friday morning. One of the officers, who admitted that he was in a position to represent the views of all who were in command of the forces, said yesterday noon:
“Our minds are made up and for the present we are done with theories. We may not be able to convince the public, but we have established to our own satisfaction the fact, as we look at it, that Mrs. Borden was killed first; that she was killed some little time before her husband and that she was instantly killed. We are as positive as we can be of anything that the murderer then waited until Mr. Borden returned and that he killed him instantly. The assassin then escaped by way of the rear door. He did not go into the cellar. No door led from the basement which would have afforded him the protection he could not find in this first floor door.
It is Well to Trust to Reason Occasionally.
Experts entertain different views, of course, but we have questioned a number of the profession since the new idea concerning Mrs. Borden’s injuries was published, and their arguments confirm us in our first opinion. It is a point that will bear the closest study and it demands attention. If the latest theory is correct it upsets the whole structure on which we have been building. Unless Mrs. Borden’s life was blotted out the instant the axe fell on her head a great many things happen which we have insisted all long could not have happened. She turned and uttered a cry; if she did not scream, she put up her hands to ward off the second blow. There was a second blow and blow after blow on top of it. Every person, man, woman and child, will instinctively raise their hands when attacked as Mrs. Borden was attacked if the first stroke did not kill. She would have either placed her arms above her head or she would have covered her face with her hands. Had she been stunned and fallen before the second blow was delivered we would have found at least one of the arms under the body. If she did not fall
The Axe Would Have Cut Her Hands or Arms.
Now what happened? She was standing near the window, perhaps, and we must account for the blood stains on the wall in the corner. The first blow penetrated the brain, and the heart beat for the last time. It was a frightful wound. I saw a physician sink his fingers into it up to the knuckles; a hideous wound. It was not on the back of the head, but the blade had been brought up and over and down. The murderer struck a full arm blow. As a result the blood flowed out and there was but one direction it could take; that was a direction forward, and it carried it to the wall. If the blow had fallen behind the ear or on the back of the head and the veins had been severed, the blood would have spurted backward. The woman fell and her assailant stooped over her and delivered blow after blow deliberately. For a time the eye was clear and the skin was true, but the work told. The last blow glanced and took off a piece of the scalp. No blood flowed from that last wound. The heart had ceased to beat some seconds before. I examined all the gashes and observed the last one particularly. It was the only one which did not lead into the brain, and it would not have stunned the woman. If it had been delivered first, Mrs. Borden would have screamed, and it is probable that there would have been no double murder; but it wasn’t.
The First Blow Killed,
and the body crashed down to the floor, just as you may have seen an ox felled. It was a limp, motionless body. The arms swung from it like pendulums, and the impetus they received as the corpse pitched forward took them out straight. Her head lay between them when we found her. This is grim talk, but no grimmer than most of the talk for the last four days. Here is one more surprising feature of the astonishing case. Nobody in the house, and there surely was one person in the house, heard that fall. It was a frame house, 48 years old. Mrs. Borden might have screamed and nobody heard her, but a fall will, nine times out of ten, arrest the attention sooner than a call, unless it is a piercing cry for aid. If this is doubted, let any person go into the second story of a house, raise a water pitcher weighing 20 pounds and drop it. Do you know that
Everybody Down Stairs Will Hear It.
Not only that, but everybody who hears it will start and will exclaim ‘What’s that?’ Ninety-nine times out of a hundred that is the exclamation. On one occasion that I can recall, eight persons were seated at a table, when a person tripped and fell on the floor above, and the eight ejaculated ‘What’s that?’ in chorus. But here was a body weighing more than 200 lbs., falling without anything to obstruct it, and no noise was heard. If the corpse had fallen on a bed or chair and rolled off it might be possible to explain it. But it fell with full force and must have jarred the whole house. Mr. Borden’s death was noiseless. His head rested on the pillow and gave with the blows of the axe. One thing we would like to establish, is the condition of the window in the spare bedroom. Was that open or shut when Dr. Bowen first entered? If it was closed, that is a singular circumstance, though it might prove nothing. Every little helps, however. It was a warm, close morning, and the room had been made up. It would have been natural for the person who put it in order to have raised the window, but Dr. Bowen doesn’t remember whether the window was raised or lowered. I don’t wonder. His mind was occupied with something besides windows.”
Mrs. Borden was Murdered First,
that her slayer closed the door on her, stole down stairs and killed her husband, escaping through the rear door and the gate.
Rev. W. Walker Jubb of the Central Congregational church and Mrs. Charles J. Holmes, a member of the congregation, called at the Borden house yesterday to console with the family. Detective Hanscom did not visit the house, and as far as could be learned, Mr. Jennings, counsel for the Misses Borden and John Morse did not call.
In the afternoon the clothing which Mr. and Mrs. Borden wore when they were butchered was taken out of the house and buried near the barn by men under the direction of Officer Chace. Officers Devine, Linnehan, Hyde and Chace guarded the house all day. At noon Mr. Morse left the house and walked down to Pleasant street. He was shadowed by Officer Devine.
At 5 o’clock in the afternoon Mr. Morse came down town again and mailed a letter at the post office. He was obliged to wait some time at the stamp window, but he attracted no attention and few people knew that he had left the house. As usual and officer shadowed him at a distance. He returned to the house without stopping on the way, and for a wonder nobody, not even a newspaper man, attempted to address him.
The search of the house yesterday was concluded with a visit to the barn, when the police ripped up the floors of that structure and turned the barn inside out. After that Capt. Desmond on his way to the marshal’s office refused to make any statement regarding the results of that search, and it has been observed that all the men on the case are becoming reticent. It is difficult to get an opinion from the superior officers bearing on the work which they have on hand, but they will talk freely on any supposed case that is put to them. One of them was asked yesterday afternoon if he considered it possible that the murderer could have left the house with his clothes stained with blood and the axe, which the authorities want so badly, concealed under his coat. He is an officer who has had a long and varied experience, and his views ought to be valuable. He said: “I should attach no great importance to the hour of the day in which such a deed was accomplished, or to the demeanor of any person after the discovery was made. A good deal is said sometimes about crimes which are committed in broad daylight. That is the best time to commit certain kinds of crimes. Unless the alarm is given too soon, a man may walk slowly away from the building in a populous section in the morning or afternoon and escape observation. I mean by observation close scrutiny. The more populous the neighborhood, the better his chances. A man who comes from a doorway or yard after sundown is scanned much more keenly, provided he is seen at all. His only advantage is that there are fewer to see him.”
Late in the afternoon, during the trial of a civil case in the District Court, Medical Examiner Dolan submitted his official report of the murder to Judge Blaisdell. The latter took the papers, promising to read them over at the earliest moment and set a date when the inquest can be held.
At 2 o’clock in the afternoon there were indications that the police were going to move in some direction or another and either
Relieve the Suspense or Add to it.
Everybody was on the qui vive, and it was expected that a sensation might occur at any moment. But the moment dragged along into hours and nothing happened. It was known that City Marshal Hilliard and his allies had reached the point where they needed legal advice and that the marshal had sent for District Attorney Hosea M. Knowlton. Shortly after 5 o’clock the district attorney arrived. He held a brief consultation with Marshal Hilliard, a long talk with Medical Examiner Dolan, and again it looked as if a move was about to be made. Timothy Harrington, a conductor for the Globe Street Railway Co., who saw Mr. Borden on the morning of the murder and could fix the time accurately, appeared at the station house; so did Officer Harrington with a book on his arm. It closely resembled the book which druggists use for keeping a record a prescriptions and the names of persons purchasing drugs. District Attorney Knowlton went out to the Mellen House to supper. At 8 o’clock Marshal Hilliard and State Officer Seaver left the Central station and walked to the Mellen House. They met the medical examiner, and with the district attorney reviewed the case from beginning to end. No details, however slight, were omitted, and at 10 o’clock the four men were still talking.
State Officer Seaver said last evening that they had definitely fixed the time that Mr. Borden
Was Last Seen Alone on the Street
at from eight to ten minutes of 11 o’clock. A man who had been talking with him on the sidewalk opposite the Borden house saw him enter the door. This man consulted his watch and is positive of what he says. At 11:13 o’clock the news of the murder was out.
More or less time is wasted in exploding clews which amount to nothing, but that is to be expected. In addition to the alleged man who the French boy asserted he saw jump the fence, another story regarding a man whom it was said was seen picking pears in the yard about the time of the tragedy has been circulated and run down by the police. Mrs. Nathan Chace declared she saw this man, and Detective Seaver started a search for him yesterday. It was found that he was Patrick McGowan, a mason’s helper, employed by John Crowe. Mr. Crowe occupied the barn and yard on Third street, in the rear of Dr. Kelley’s house, which is just south of the Borden homestead.
District Attorney Not Ready to Talk.
At 12:30 this morning, the district attorney and the marshal, State Officer Seaver and Medical Examiner Dolan were still in consultation. Mayor Coughlin was with them. At a late hour all left the room in the Mellen House except District Attorney Knowlton. Five press representatives made a dash for him. He said: “Gentleman, I have nothing to tell you. I read my newspaper in the morning, and I want all the news, but I can’t help you now. When I get ready to talk I will talk with all of you, and treat you all like”
The marshal took all the evidence which he had collected in the shape of notes, papers, etc., together with other documents bearing on the case, into the room where the five men were closeted and they commenced at the beginning. At the close of the conference held earlier in the afternoon, the district attorney advised the officers to proceed with the utmost caution, and was extremely conservative in the conclusions which he found. At that time he had not been made acquainted with all the details. Last night the same caution was observed. The quintet were working on one of the most
Remarkable Criminal Records in History,
and were obliged to proceed slowly. The marshal began at the beginning and continued to the end. He was assisted in his explanation by the mayor and medical examiner. Mr. Seaver listened. There were details almost without and, and all of them were picked to pieces and viewed in every conceivable light. Considerable new evidence was introduced, and then the testimony of officers not present was submitted, which showed that Miss Lizzie Borden might have been mistaken in one important particular. The marshal informed the district attorney that the murder had occurred between 10 minutes of 11 o’clock and 13 minutes after 11 on Thursday morning. The time was as accurate as they could get it. And they had spared no pains to fix it.
The alarm had been given by Miss Lizzie Borden, the daughter of the murdered man, when she returned from the barn. At the moment of the discovery she did not know that her stepmother was also dead, though she explained afterwards that she thought her mother had left the house. It was but a short distance from the barn to the house. Nobody had been found who has seen anybody leaving the yard of the Borden house or entering it, although a number of people, who were named, were sitting by their windows close by. It was also true that nobody had seen Miss Borden enter or leave the barn. She had explained that she went to the stable to procure some lead for a fish line, which she was going to use at Marion. Here
There Was a Stumbling block
which puzzled the district attorney and his assistants. On the day of the murder Miss Lizzie had explained that she went to the loft of the barn for the lead and an officer who was examining the premises also went to the loft. It was covered with dust and there were no tracks to prove that any person had been there for weeks. He took particular notice of the fact and reported back that he had walked about on the dust-covered floor on purpose to discover whether or not his own feet left any tracks. He said that they did and thought it singular anybody could have visited the floor a short time before him and make no impression on the dust. The lower floor of the stable told no such tale as it was evident that it had been used more frequently and the dust had not accumulated there. The conclusion reached was that in the excitement incident to the awful discovery, Miss Borden had forgotten just where she went for the lead. When she found her father lying on the lounge, she ran to the stairs and ascended three or four steps to call Maggie. Maggie is the name by which Bridget Sullivan was called by members of the family. She did not call her stepmother, because as she stated afterward, she did not think she was in. Then came the
History of the Mysterious Letter.
Miss Lizzie had said that on the morning of the tragedy her step-mother received a letter asking her to visit a sick friend. She knew that at about 9 o’clock her step-mother went upstairs to put shams on the pillows, and she did not see her again. It was that letter which led her to believe that her step-mother had gone out. Here was stumbling block number two. The offices had searched all over the house for that letter, the marshal said, but had failed to find any trace of it. Miss Lizzie had feared that it had been burned in the kitchen stove.
The marshal’s men had found other letters and fragments of letters in the wastepaper basket and had put them together piece by piece. The one letter that was wanted had not been found. It was considered singular that with all the furor that had been raised over this note, the woman who wrote it has not come forward before this and cleared up the mystery. It is also strange that the boy who delivered the note has not made himself known. It is believed that every boy in town old enough to do an errand
has visited the house since the tragedy, but this particular boy has kept in the background.
It is presumed that Mrs. Borden’s correspondent feared the notoriety which would come to her, if she disclosed her identity, but it is unfortunate that she should allow any such scruples to overcome what ought to be a desire to assist in every way possible in unravelling the knot.
The marshal, medical examiner and mayor then carefully rehearsed, step by step, the summoning of Dr. Bowen, who was not at home when the murder was committed, and his
Ghastly Discovery on the Second Floor.
No theory other than that Mrs. Borden was murdered first was entertained, and Mayor Coughlin was positive that the murderer had shut the door after the deed had been accomplished. Miss Borden’s demeanor during the many interviews which the police have had with her was described at length, and the story of John W. Morse’s whereabouts was retold.
When the marshal and others left the district attorney they went to the central station. On their return they had another bundle of papers, said to have been warrants, but on that point nobody was positive, as the authorities refused to state what their errand had been.
No One Jumped the Fence.
Another clue has been the factually disposed of. The case of the mysterious stranger who, it was alleged, was seen by the French boy to jump over the fence in the rear of the Borden place about the hour of the tragedy has received thorough investigation and has now been effectually disproved. Adjoining the yard of the Borden place is the house occupied by Dr. Chagnon. On the evening in question the physician was unexpectedly summoned away and asked Dr. Collet, if, as a favor, he would allow the latter’s little son to attend to the telephone during Dr. Chagnon’s absence. The boy was absent, but instead Dr. Collet sent his daughter to Dr. Chagnon’s residence, but upon her arrival the doctor had departed and the office was locked. The little girl decided to wait the arrival of some one and sat down in the yard for that purpose. The little girl remained in the yard adjoining the Borden place. She was there at the time it was alleged the unknown man jumped the fence, and she declares that she saw no one attempt anything of the kind. The fact that there was a considerable extent of barbed wire along the top of the fence substantiates the girl’s story.
Cruel and Unmanly.
The Boston Record says:
The Record wishes most earnestly to protest against one feature of this terrible mystery in Fall River, and that is the treatment accorded to the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Borden. It is cruel, unmanly, almost passing beyond the bounds of law. Grant what you will, the uttermost measure regarding the murder, and there is not one thing affecting either daughter save the black mists of eager suspicion.
Until there is at least one piece of direct evidence connecting them with the crime, it should be the part of man and woman alike to avoid all innuendo—to insist that to treat them in any way as accused of crime is brutal, nothing short of it. Step into the place for a moment, if your imagination can compass the task—if anyone who has suddenly found father and mother butchered in cold blood, at midday, and a few hours later a whole city morbidly discussing the dreadful crime in every light. The answering flow of feeling is plea enough for the shielding of the daughters of the Borden household at this time.
We say this more plainly now because we seem to find even officials in Fall River talking of the case in such false tones and looking at it in such a false light. It is not difficult to see how the thoughtless crowd of morbid neighbors and bystanders might allow themselves to be led gradually to look upon the household as practically accused of the crime. But it is strange to hear the head of the municipal government talking as he is reported in to-day’s Journal:
“But, Mr. Mayor, what sticks me is this,” said the Journal reporter. “How could a woman commit such a horrible deed as this, strike these blows with a brutality amounting to frenzy, with all this blood before her, and yet show no change in her ordinary demeanor, and move around as calmly as the most innocent person in the world? I can’t reconcile that with guilt.”
“Well, Lizzie Borden is not an emotional girl,” replied the mayor. “She is not an excitable one. That, unquestionably, is her nature. She does not tell what she thinks, she does not show what she feels. Her manner is cold, at times absolutely frigid.”
When the mayor of the city takes the lead in regarding a woman guilty until proved innocent, instead of holding the public quietly and sternly at arm’s length, insisting her innocent until proved guilty, it is not strange that the tide of sentiment in the hearts and minds of many another should be set against her. In the name of all that is decent and civilized and womanly this daughter of a murdered father should be accorded treatment due to her place in her own family and in the world.
Analysis of Stomachs.
Prof. Woods was seen at the Harvard Medical School by a Boston Journal reporter yesterday, and he stated emphatically, when approached on the subject of the analysis of the stomachs submitted by the Fall River police, that he had nothing to say, and would say nothing regarding the analysis in question. But from a remark dropped, it is inferred that the professor has not finished his analysis, but that the work will be completed by Wednesday surely.