By William D. Spencer, author of The Case Against Lizzie Borden
Signed by Author
On May 30, 1893 twenty-two-year-old Bertha Mabel Manchester was brutally murdered in her father’s farmhouse on New Boston Road in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her father, Stephen Manchester, was downtown with twelve-year-old son Freddie and farm hand John Tonsall delivering the product of Stephen’s dairy farm and doing errands. When They arrived home, Bertha’s body was discovered in the kitchen. She had been killed by over twenty axe blows to the head, some of which knocked out five teeth.
An Azorean immigrant named Jose Correa de Mello was charged with the crime. He had periodically worked for Stephen Manchester and had a history of working for a day or two and then not coming back. He didn’t speak English, but claimed, through an interpreter, that he was attacked by Bertha first and he was defending himself. He had come to the farm to recover the money he thought Manchester owed him and was caught ransacking the place in search of money.
He was sentenced to life in prison at hard labor but on January 31, 1914, de Mello was released from prison, mostly due to the pleadings and petitions of the Portuguese community in Fall River. De Mello was immediately deported back to the Azores. He had served twenty-one years of his sentence.
Jose de Mello had turned himself into the authorities on Saturday, June 3, 1893. Two days later, on Monday, June 5, a jury was empaneled for the Borden case began in New Bedford and sequestered for the remainder of the trial. They were prohibited from reading the newspapers. They most certainly knew that that Bertha had been killed with an axe, and they might have heard that a suspect was being held by the police. Could this Portuguese man also be the killer of the Bordens? More importantly, did a Borden juror consider the possibility that Jose de Mello, and not Lizzie Borden, had murdered Andrew and Abby Borden, and thus argued for her acquittal on that suspicion?
No Borden trial juror interviewed mentioned the Manchester case, however that does not preclude the possibility that it was discussed in their very brief deliberations.
Bertha Mable Manchester is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, alongside her father Stephen, mother Hannah (Davis), and stepmother Mary Jane (Whittles).
Softcover, 194 pp., illustrated; $14.95
6 x 9, ISBN: 979885379324