Lizzie Borden Took an Axe is set to debut on Lifetime this weekend. The film stars Christina Ricci as the woman accused of brutally murdering both her parents with an axe. Ricci said she spent a lot of time researching the real Lizzie and found the entire case intriguing.
A native of Fall River, Massachusetts, Lizzie Borden’s biological mother died when she was just a toddler. Three years later, her father Andrew married Abby Durfee Gray, who raised Lizzie and her sister Emma as her own.
Lizzie and Emma lived with their parents into adulthood. Although they appeared to be a normal and happy family, the home was reportedly filled with tension. The sisters never completely accepted Gray as their mother, and they feared she was only interested in their father’s money.
On August 4, 1892, Lizzie reportedly found her father dead on a sofa. Andrew was apparently killed with an axe while he slept. A subsequent search of the home revealed Abby was killed in the same brutal manner.
As Emma was out of town at the time, Lizzie Borden became the prime suspect. Although she denied involvement, authorities were specifically concerned with her demeanor after discovering her parents were violently murdered.
Judith Verno, executive producer of Lizzie Borden Took an Axe, said she believes Lizzie’s demeanor underlined her guilt:
“It’s very hard to imagine that if you found your father dead, on the couch, that you would remain in the house… To me, the natural instinct would be to leave the house, because the killer’s probably there… That she sat down and remained so calm was very telling.”
In addition to her behavior, authorities questioned why Lizzie burned a dress she was wearing that morning. As reported by Biography.com, the suspect claimed she burned the dress as it was covered in paint. The authorities believed the dress was actually covered in blood.
Lizzie was indicted for the murders and the subsequent trial gripped the nation. However, there was little conclusive evidence and Borden was eventually found not guilty. Following her acquittal, Lizzy and Emma shared their father’s considerable fortune.
New York Post reports Ricci found the original case interesting but disturbing:
“What I thought was interesting about playing this part… was the question of, ‘How does a person behave once they’re accused of this in trying to convince everyone they’re innocent?’ “
Borden and her sister Emma used their inheritance to purchase a home, where they lived together for many years. Although they eventually had a falling out, neither women ever spoke publicly about their parents’ murder or the subsequent accusations. The sisters both died in June 1927 — days apart.
Lizzie Borden Took an Axe premiers on Lifetime January 25.