One of the Darkest, Most Twisted Crimes in American History

One of the Darkest, Most Twisted Crimes in American History

Dateline:Autumn 1965

Location:Indianapolis,Indiana USA

Suspects: Gertrude Baniszewki , The.Baniszewki kids, Several other neighborhood kids

Victims: Sylvia and Jenny Likens

The year was 1965. The Beatles were all the rage. The American fighting forces were preparing for War in Vietnam. Lyndon B Johnson was President. But in Indianapolis, Indiana a shocking torture murder was occurring that gripped not only the community of Indianapolis, but the whole country.

In July 1965, Lester and Betty Likens, traveling carnival workers, suggested that Baniszewski take their two daughters—Sylvia Marie Likens, 16, and Jenny Faye Likens, 15—as boarders in return for $20 a week ($150.18 adjusted for modern inflation) in compensation while they worked across the country. The Likens sisters attended high school and social functions with the Baniszewski children, as well as church with Gertrude Baniszewski on Sunday.

However, when the Likens's first $20 payment was late, Baniszewski beat the girls. Shortly thereafter, the girls were beaten for having candy that Baniszewski accused them of stealing. Thus began a regular pattern of child abuse.

In August 1965, Baniszewski began to verbally and physically abuse Sylvia Likens, allowing her older children to beat her, and push her down stairs. Baniszewski also accused Likens of prostitution and delivered "sermons" about the filthiness of prostitutes and women in general. After the Likens sisters reportedly accused Baniszewski's daughters Paula and Stephanie of being prostitutes, Stephanie's boyfriend Coy Hubbard and several other classmates and local boys were brought in to assist Baniszewski in beating Sylvia. Baniszewski later forced Jenny to hit her sister. It was later revealed that all the stuff bought and money received was through recycling soda bottles for deposits. Which was a common practice in the 60s

When Likens became incontinent, Baniszewski locked her in the basement and began a bathing regime to "cleanse" Sylvia, involving dousing her with scalding water and rubbing salt into the burns. She was often kept naked and rarely fed. At times, Baniszewski and her twelve-year-old son John Jr. would make Likens eat her own feces.

One of the Darkest, Most Twisted Crimes in American History

Around this time, Jenny managed to contact her older sister Diana, outlining the intense trauma that the two sisters were experiencing and asking Diana to contact the police. Diana ignored the letter, believing that Jenny was simply displeased with being punished and that she was making up stories so that she could come live with Diana.

Shortly after this, Diana Likens came to visit her sisters, but Baniszewski refused to allow her inside. Diana hid near the house until she spotted Jenny outside, then approached her. Jenny told her that she was not allowed to talk to her and then ran away. Concerned, Diana contacted social services and informed them that Baniszewski told her that Sylvia Likens had been abandoned for being physically unclean and a prostitute, and that she had since run away. When a social-services worker arrived at the Baniszewski home inquiring about Sylvia, Baniszewski told Jenny to lie about Sylvia's whereabouts, threatening that she'd get the same treatment as Sylvia if she didn't. Terrified, Jenny confirmed that Sylvia had run away. The worker returned to her office and filed a report stating that no more follow-up visits to the Baniszewski home were needed. This was truly one of the most shocking child abuse cases of the 20th century.

On October 21 Baniszewski instructed John Jr., Coy, and Stephanie to bring Likens up from the basement and tie her to a bed. The next morning, enraged that Sylvia had wet the bed, Baniszewski again forced her to insert a large glass Pepsi bottle into her vagina,before beginning to carve the phrase "I'm a prostitute and proud of it" into her abdomen with a hot sewing needle. When Baniszewski was unable to finish the branding, she had Ricky Hobbs finish. The next day, Baniszewski woke Likens, and then dictated a letter to her, intended to look like a runaway letter to her parents.

After Sylvia finished the letter, Baniszewski formulated a plan to have John Jr. and Jenny take Sylvia to a nearby garbage dump and leave her there to die. When Sylvia overheard this, she ran down the stairs attempting to escape, but Baniszewski stopped her as she stepped out the front door and onto the porch. Baniszewski then pulled Sylvia back inside the house and again threw her down the basement steps and kept her there.

One of the Darkest, Most Twisted Crimes in American History

On October 24, Baniszewski came down to the basement and attempted to bludgeon Sylvia with a wooden paddle, but missed her and accidentally struck herself. Coy Hubbard stepped in and viciously beat Sylvia on the head repeatedly with a broomstick and left her unconscious on the basement floor. In the early evening of Tuesday, October 26, Baniszewski told the children she would give Sylvia a bath, in lukewarm water this time. Stephanie and Richard Hobbs brought Sylvia upstairs and placed her in the bathtub fully clothed; as they took her out shortly thereafter and laid her on a bare mattress on the floor, they realized she was not breathing. Stephanie frantically attempted to resuscitate her, but Likens was already dead.

Panic-stricken, Stephanie told Hobbs to call the police. When they arrived, Gertrude gave them the letter she'd made Sylvia write. Amidst the commotion, Jenny Likens whispered to one of the policemen, "Get me out of here and I'll tell you everything." Her statement, combined with the discovery of Sylvia's body, prompted the officers to arrest Gertrude, Paula, Stephanie and John Baniszewski, Richard Hobbs, and Coy Hubbard for murder. Other neighborhood children present at the time—Mike Monroe, Randy Lepper, Darlene McGuire, Judy Duke, and Anna Siscoe—were arrested for. injury to person. Next was to begin the Trial of the sickest and saddest crimes in American History.

In 1966 Gertrude Baniszewki was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. However in 1971 Gertrude received a new trial and the ruling stayed. Controversially, she was granted parole in 1985 due to good behavior she conducted herself by while in prison. 40,000 people actually signed petitions against releasing her on parole. The Indiana state parole board voted 3 to 2 to release her and grant parole. While she was addressing the News Media several people drove by yelling statements such as "Shoot that Bitch" or "Burn in Hell". She changed her name while in prison to Nadine Van Foussan. She moved to Iowa to resume her New identity only to die five years later in 1990. The Crime was the story if.a movie staring Ellen Page called "An American Crime" which I think is on Netflix or YouTube.

This is not a story your going to hear on Law and Order, CSI or Criminal Minds. It is shocking, but it is a true story that this is one of the darkest crimes ever committed in the 20th Century.

One of the Darkest, Most Twisted Crimes in American History
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Most Helpful Girl

  • redeyemindtricks
    Did the parole board release any sort of detailed justification for releasing her? (Beyond the usual boilerplate, "good behavior" and all that)
    Like 2 People
    Is this still revelant?
    • No, other than she saw the light, accepted the Christian faith, good role model prisoner etc.. No. They actually had to have a second hearing because a state judge said the first parole hearing was not conducted under Indiana's Open Meeting law. Which means court cases and parole hearing are all open door

    • Regardless, this truly sounds like something on American Horror Story

    • Did the first hearing result in a denial of parole? Because THAT would be one hell of a twist to the story...

    • Show All

Most Helpful Guy

  • Waffles731
    Like 1 Person
    Is this still revelant?

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • CheerGirl38139
    This kinda shit right here is why no matter how hard I try to convince myself, I just can't be 100% against capital punishment. Sometimes it just makes sense given the evidence and severity of the crime.
    Like 1 Person
    • If she would have gotten capital punishment it would have likely been overturned and commuted to life. Because from 1972-1976 the US Supreme Court banned capital punishment due to the Furman vs Georgia ruling

    • Just like what happened to Charles Manson

    • well thank God we still have some State's Rights left. Although probably not for much longer.
      But if she was found guilty in 1966, couldn't she have been executed prior to 1972?

    • Show All
  • carolann1920
    Gertrude Baniszewski is not alone. There have been many others - Mary Ann Cotton - Elizabeth Bathory - Katherine Knight - Irma Grese and Belle Gunness to name but a few
    Like 2 People
    • I've also heard a lot about Mary Bell the UK killer child in the late 1960s

    • also Beverly Allitt was a nurse who killed children

    • Was she the one who gave them muscle relaxers in the drs office?

    • Show All
  • EmpatheticLady
    Huh, I've never heard of this crime before. That's absolutely horrible, though I'm wondering why she was even released if so many people were against it. She clearly deserved to be in jail.
    Like 1 Person
    • Apparently the state of Indiana had that issue.

  • Blonde401
    I've read about this case before. Truly tragic. I don't understand this pack mentality people have about hurting someone, what makes them do it? Especially to a child, it's so vile.
    Like 1 Person
    • A lot of it was about control and in a sense Sexual control. The Dobbs boy and Gertrude did have a sexual type relationship even though they never had sex.

    • Blonde401

      Oh yeah I know. Everything in cases like these come down to power and sex and usually sex is about control and violence.

    • The other main factors were: her depression, she chainsmoked and was asthmatic. She was divorced and was receiving child support payments. She was also jealous because Sylvia was pretty and full of life when Gertrude was not. Even at 37

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  • vishna
    She shouldn't have been let out, I'm sorry, but no. She was a sick evil person and she needed to be put away so others could be safe.
    Like 1 Person
    • She died five years later. So did most of the other suspects. Most either had a heart attack or cancer. That's Karma right there

    • vishna

      Karma would have been falling into an ant bed every day and having them eat a little more of their body. Jk, I'm not psycho.

  • ginny_weasley
    God that's terrible what happened to those girls. Perpetrators shouldn't be alive.
    Like 1 Person
    • They are all pretty much dead the head one died years ago after being paroled which was a huge mistake

    • that she was paroled Imean

    • That shouldn't have happened either.

    • Show All
  • Cherokeehp
    I think I saw this movie. Isn't it called like American Crime? It was so fucked up.
    Like 1 Person
  • Rocket_Queen
    I tried to watch this movie and was so disgusted and angry I couldn't make it through.
    Like 1 Person
    • The full story is way more graphic

    • Oh I'm sure. I just can't handle that stuff. I can't handle kids being hurt. There is a book you might be interested in along these lines. I read it in small portions foe a book club and it is the same. Absolutely heartbreaking. But he did survive and managed to have a normal adult life.

    • I've read that book. While heartbreaking, it is very good.

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  • bbch25
    I don't even have words... That's just.. wow.
    Like 1 Person
    • Sadly Gertrude got off way too easy, but Karma caught up with everyone else pretty much

    • bbch25

      Definitely, I went and looked it up. While I "love" reading these stories out of interest and my own field of study. It still makes me angry and sad and sick and all these different emotions how people can act.

      It's almost sad that I fear in today's society if that happened and the cops sowed up and Jenny said "I'll tell you everything get me out" cops wouldn't be able to in that moment. You'd have to contact services, have somewhere to go, create contracts etc etc. I mean I could be wrong but... if they couldn't have taken her, even if they came back an hour later, I can't imagine what would've happened to her in that hour then.

    • True. The times have changed. Back then DSS also didn't remove kids very often either. So you had abuse happening behind closed doors that stayed that way for decades. Nowdays all a kid has to do is tell someone that they are being hurt and the person they tell is legally obligated to call CPS

    • Show All