- October 26, 1965
A Grave Memorial
October 26, 1965
in Indianapolis, Indiana a beautiful, young woman named Sylvia Marie
was released from the home that had been her prison for a long time.
release, unfortunately, came in the form of her death.
the police found
her body, it was covered with bruises and small wounds that were later
revealed to be cigarette burns, there were over 100 of them on her
Sylvia Marie Likens also had skin peeled back away from her body, the
3 was burned into her body as were the words "I'm a prostitute and
year old woman
named Gertrude Baniszewski had lead a group of children, some as young
as 11 years old and including, UNWILLINGLY, Sylvia's younger
Jenny and willingly, Gertrude's daughter Paula to beat and torture this
young woman, until one day she died after being given a bath.
parents had left their children with Gertrude to care for them while
traveled with a carnival. They hardly knew this woman and didn't even
to check out her home before leaving their children alone with her.
told Gertrude that his daughters needed some discipline and asked her
straighten them out. Lester
Betty had offered
her $20. a week to care for their daughters. She did more than
and four children were the only ones, out of the many who had
to Sylvia's tortured existence, to stand trail for her murder.
charges against most of the children who had joined in were dropped.
her daughter Paula, her son John, Coy Hubbard and a boy with the last
Hobbs were all charged and went
May of 1966, Gertrude
was on trial and denied having any part in the torture and death of
She claimed that the children must have been the one to do this to her.
She plead not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.
May 19, 1966,
Gertrude was found guilty of first degree murder and was sentenced to
in prison. Paula was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced
to life in prison. All of the boys were sentenced to two to 21 year
at the Indiana State Reformatory in Pendleton.
and Paula were granted a new trial by the Indiana Supreme Court based
a prejudicial atmosphere. Gertrude was, once again, convicted of first
degree murder on August 5, 1971. Paula
plea to manslaughter and served ONLY two years in prison. In
the three boys who had been found guilty, were each granted parole for
good behavior. They had only been in prison for about two years each.
Gertrude Baniszewski was released on parole. She changed her name to
Van Fossan and moved to Iowa where she lived in obscurity until her
from lung cancer on June 16, 1990. Paula married and moved to a farm in
Iowa. John became a lay minister in Texas and counseled children of
parents. Hobbs died of cancer at the age of 21, four years after being
released from the reformatory. Hubbard has had several brushes with the
law. Lester and Betty Likens divorced. Betty remarried and died in 1998
at age 71. Jenny Likens Wade died in 2004 at age 54.
in December of 1985, Gertrude was paroled from prison after serving
20 years for her inhuman crimes against Sylvia Marie Likens. Changing
name to Nadine Van Fossan, she moved to Iowa and died of lung cancer on
June 16, 1990.
and moved to Iowa to live on a farm. John became a minister in Texas.
was a counselor for children who came from homes where the parents had
divorced. Coy had many other dealings with the law. Lester and Betty
were divorced. Betty remarried and she died in 1998 at the age of
children and was there when a monument was put up to honor her sister,
Sylvia. Jenny died on June 23, 2004 at the age of 54.
could so many
people, including an older sister, a Reverend, a child's mother and
visitors to this home become aware of the horrible things that were
to this innocent young girl, yet ignore it which allowed the abuse to
until finally Sylvia Marie Likens body could take it no more and she
of Sylvia Marie Likens is one in which had ANY of the adults
witnessed this horror reported it to the proper authorities, she could
have been released from the nightmare she was living. This true story
be a reminder to us all that we should NOT turn our backs on ANY
child that needs our help.
received an e-mail
at one point, from a man who said that he had been one of the children
who had tortured Sylvia all those years ago. He told me that not a day
goes by that he doesn't think about Sylvia and regret what took place.
I offered him the chance to tell his story here on her pages and he
even remain anonymous, I never heard from him again.
of the house where Sylvia died, the
room where Sylvia was
tortured and died, back then and
how the house looks today.
is a picture
of Sylvia's headstone.
below to view
trailer for the movie due out in 2007.
received an e-mail
on June 19, 2003 and here is
want to thank
you for the memorial I saw on a web site for Sylvia Marie Likens. I
Sylvia and Jennie
were very young playing together when they came to visit or stay with
for a short
time living in our neighborhood. Thank you so very much!!
in my hometown."
for permission to use her comments on my site she had this to add:
may add what
I had said earlier. I really do not remember much
go out to Connie for writing me and for allowing me to use her comments
on my site. If you know any of the children within my child abuse pages
and would like your comments to be on my site, on their page, please
me know by e-mail. THANK YOU!
we were so little. They moved around
and was never in one place for long. I remember
as a quiet
girl, which I assume we played dolls together, and
her leg brace,
which she was more wary
You can see Jenny Fay Likens memorial,
A Grave Memorial
Sylvia had a brother who died, you can
read about Benny Ray Likens, here: Find
A Grave Memorial