The Evening Standard—Tuesday, August 9, 1892 Page 6
THE CHAIN OF EVIDENCE
Forged by the Police Against
Full Report of Conference With
All the Facts in Possession of
Laid Before the Public by the
Startling Disclosures Now Made
For the First Time.
Fall River, Aug. 9, — The statement published in the Boston Herald this morning that warrants were issued yesterday for the supposed Borden murderers is utterly without foundation in fact.
The gravity of the situation is such that in the near future official action may be taken, and that perhaps to-day; but up to 9 o’clock this morning no warrants had been issued, and there will be none drawn until the first day’s session of the inquest is over.
The above has been authentically learned and is written to refute a story that has given the police annoyance, deceived the public, and prematurely reflected upon the parties involved.
As was announced this morning, the conference between the police and District Attorney Knowlton at the Mellen House last night lasted from 7:30 until after 1 o’clock.
The purpose of the meeting was to acquaint Mr. Knowlton with the evidence in the possession of the marshal’s forces, and to familiarize him with the outside conditions in the case, that he would be obliged to overcome at the inquest, if the best interests of the Commonwealth were served. State Officer George Seaver, Marshal Hilliard and Mr. Knowlton were closeted alone for the first two hours of the evening in parlor B. When Mr. Knowlton had gathered the main facts of the tragedy in a general way he called for writing materials and began to formulate the evidence. He first desired to fix the time of the tragedy. The evidence in the marshal’s possession bearing upon this point was exhaustive. It was shown that Mr. Borden, the victim, reached home after his morning trip down town between 10:45 and 10:50 o’clock. This was shown both by the testimony of men who met him on the way and by the first admissions of the Borden household after the tragedy.
It was further shown by the statements of the family that Miss Lizzie left the house to go out to the barn not later than eight minutes of 11. From the same original sources of information it appears that she returned from the barn and discovered her father dead between 11:03 and 11:05 o’clock.
It was shown by substantial evidence that as early as 11:10 o’clock the first news of the murder was upon the street. At 11:15 the tidings were conveyed to the police, and before 11:20 o’clock a number of people were on their way to the Borden house. Dr. Bowen, who fixes the time of his arrival about 11:20, was present when the first officers from the central station put in an appearance. A strong array of testimony bearing upon the above was shown to be in the government’s possession, a fact that gratified Mr. Knowlton exceedingly.
The evidence to a moral certainty fixes the commission of the murder between 10:52 and 11:05 o’clock. This allowance of 13 minutes is made upon the most liberal calculations possible from the evidence and is of great significance in the case.
The second important topic discussed was the story of Lizzie Borden, who is the last person known to have seen her father alive. What she said she did for him after he entered the house prior to adjusting his pillow, at which time she left him lying on the sofa in the position he was found when dead, proves in itself the probable accuracy of the time given.
Miss Borden, the district attorney learned, has made three radical changes in her story since the original was told. One discrepancy pertains to her whereabouts at the time of the murder. She first said she was at the water closet in the barn. Then that she was in the loft searching for lead; then that she was in both places.
The second change in her story referred to time. Originally she made the statement above credited to her. She lengthened the period of her absence from the house to 20 minutes, and latterly she has called it 30 minutes.
The third inconsistency in the narrative is a denial that she solicited the purchase of prussic acid at Smith’s drug store, a fact that the police have proved to their satisfaction by competent witnesses.
Miss Lizzie’s own statements show that she did not call for Mrs. Borden, after the discovery of her father dead or go to her room. That she did not search for the note her stepmother is alleged to have received, so that if absent from the house, she might send to acquaint her with the terrible news. All that she did was to notify Bridget to go out and get a doctor. Miss Borden does not account for the manner in which she spent her time while the girl was gone. Whether she remained in the room with the body or not is a question. She said there was a fire in the kitchen stove and that Mrs. Borden may have gone out and burned the note.
The remainder of Miss Borden’s statements that bear upon the case pertain to the time of Mr. Morse’s departure in the morning and the hour of his return. Likewise to the relations existing between her family and herself prior to the tragedy.
The district attorney then listened to the marshal’s narration of his officer’s work in tracing down every rumor obtained, and not finding a single clew worthy of consideration. Distances between the scene of the tragedy and the adjoining houses were specified to show that no great noise or violence could possibly have escaped the neighbors hearing nor that of Bridget Sullivan or Miss Lizzie if she was in the barn.
Tending to destroy the value of her story of being in the barn at the place described, the evidence of one of the police officers was considered. At an early hour in the forenoon of the day of the tragedy he opened the door in the barn chamber and carefully examined the floor by aid of a stronger light. He saw no tracks in a heavy layer of dust upon the floor except those made by his own shoes. This officer, Mr. Medley, is a sound reliable investigator and his evidence has great weight.
At this point a knock at the door interrupted the proceedings and the cards of Medical Examiner Dolan and His Honor, Mayor Coughlin, were received.
They were immediately requested to come up stairs, and then the medical end of the case was taken up.
It was shown that in all moral probability Mrs. Borden was the first victim. Her death might have occurred as early as 9:00 in the morning, and surely did not occur an hour that was not much later.
Dr. Dolan’s information indicated the settlement of one very important fact. There is manifestly a greater space of time between the moment of Mrs. Borden’s death and that of her husband’s that can be accounted for on the theory that both murders took place during the period that Miss Lizzie says she was in the barn.
Therefore the theory negatively proved that Miss Borden, who says she was not away from home the entire morning prior to the murder, must have been in the house—under the same roof with her step-mother and the assassin—when the first murder took place.
How the fall of such a heavy woman as Mrs. Borden, who weighed over two hundred, could escape being heard in a frame house the size of the Borden residence, was unaccountable in the opinion of the authorities.
The final decision of the conference was to do nothing until morning, when the fact would be positively decided whether an inquest need be commenced or not.
It was the firm opinion of all that prior to such action been taken Bridget Sullivan ought to be given a vigorous examination.
It was stated by the marshal that she was in a very nervous state, a condition resulting from a cause yet to be fully determined.
He said that on Monday morning, after her return, she made hasty preparations to leave the house, and an officer on guard saw her packing up her effects. He asked her what she was going to do, and she replied to get out.
The marshal said the officer immediately informed him of the circumstances, and he instructed the guard to tell her she must not go on penalty of arrest.
Then Mr. Hilliard told how he called on the girl in the afternoon, and found her a physical and mental wreck.
She cried and said she could not sleep nights and was afraid to remain longer in the house.
He had reasoned with her and assured her that no harm could possibly come to her, but that availed nothing.
Bridget was not to be consoled. He left her to endure a season of mental unrest, and suggested that by this morning she might be in a ripe condition to effectively interview.
This plan was endorsed thoroughly.
While the marshal was not without some evidence of a safe character to warrant action, the desirability of adding Bridget Sullivan’s unreserved story to the general fund of information already possessed was apparent.
Then the conference adjourned.
The district attorney retired to bed at the Mellen House and the others to the Wilbur House, where for another hour the mayor and officers discussed the situation.
The mayor, who has used the press with the greatest consideration, both in his official and social capacity, has finally decided to stop talking to reporters.
His experience in being misquoted in serious ways by men who ought to know better has injured the chance of other well-meaning correspondents, and has done him a great injustice.