Scientist Says He Found Lost Pieces of Lizzie Borden Murder PuzzleANNE STUART , Associated Press
Aug. 4, 1992 7:29 PM ET
FALL RIVER, MASS. FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) _ A forensic scientist who scanned the graves of Lizzie Borden's slain parents with radar said Tuesday he believes their skulls, which were removed for evidence but then disappeared, are buried above the corpses.
James E. Starrs, a professor at George Washington University, said he won't try to get permission to dig up the graves because of opposition from Borden relatives.
Starrs announced his findings at a three-day conference marking the 100th anniversary Tuesday of the day Andrew and Abby Borden were hacked to death in their home here.
Lizzie Borden, Andrew's daughter from a previous marriage, was acquitted.
After the verdict, the skulls used in court as evidence disappeared. Despite extensive documentation on other aspects of the case, there is no record of their final resting place.
Starrs, who teaches law and forensic science, has investigated other notorious criminal cases. He exhumed the body of Alferd Packer, the Colorado prospector suspected of cannibalism, and that of Dr. Carl Austin Weiss, accused of assassinating Sen. Huey Long of Louisiana.
Six months ago, Starrs scanned the Borden graves with a radar device, somewhat like an oversized metal detector.
''I am as sure as science will allow that the skulls are buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, about 3 feet above the rest of the remains of the Bordens,'' Starrs said.
Starrs said he would like to exhume the skulls and use modern scientific techniques to determine whether a small hatchet found in the Borden home inflicted the fatal blows.
But he said a dozen Borden relatives, alerted by news coverage of his radar investigation, wrote him ''a poison-pen letter'' accusing him of desecrating the graves and opposing further investigation.
Since the slayings remain unsolved, Starrs said he likely wouldn't need relatives' approval to exhume the bodies. But to avoid any conflict, he said he'll turn his attention to other evidence, such as the broken-handled hatchet and the hairpiece Mrs. Borden was wearing when she died on Aug. 4, 1892.
Followers of the century-old case called Starrs' presentation the most provocative of the conference that ends Wednesday, but they differed regarding its ultimate significance.
Even if Starrs exhumes the bodies, ''It wouldn't prove who the murderer was,'' said Paul Fletcher, an English professor at Bristol Community College, host of the conference.
''He may be able to positively identify the murder weapon,'' said Jules Ryckebusch, the Bristol professor who coordinated the conference.
''If it was the hatchet found in the house, it would put point a little more to Lizzie, or someone in the house,'' as opposed to an outsider, Ryckebusch said.
Nevertheless, he added, ''It doesn't prove Lizzie did it.''