Following her divorce, Baniszewski married a man named Edward Guthrie. [16][n 1] Both girls frequently resided with relatives—often their grandmother—so that their schoolwork would not suffer while their parents and brothers traveled with the carnival. An examination and autopsy of Sylvia Likens' body revealed numerous burns, bruising, and muscle and nerve damage. Will we shy away from the most diabolical case to ever come before a court or jury? In response, her mother's attorney, William Erbecker, sneeringly replied, "Including yourself? Mythen Metzger. [7], Fourteen years prior to her death, Jenny Likens Wade had viewed Gertrude Baniszewski's obituary in a newspaper; she clipped the section from the newspaper, then mailed it to her mother with an accompanying note reading: "Some good news. Taken back to Lebanon, she was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery on October 29, 1965. Marie later married. Comfort was a word she had never heard of but pain stuck to her like a leech. Likens, aged 16, was held captive and subjected to increasing levels of child abuse and torture—committed over a period of almost three months—by her caregiver, Gertrude Baniszewski, many of Baniszewski's children, and several other neighborhood children, before ultimately succumbing to her injuries and malnourishment on October 26. For the first two weeks at the Baniszewski’s, Sylvia and her sister were treated kindly enough, though Gertrude’s oldest daughter, 17-year-old Paula Baniszewski, seemed to butt heads with Sylvia often. Sylvia Marie Likens, born on January 3, 1949, was the third child of Lester and Elizabeth Likens. You'll have to live with your conscience the rest of your life if you send an insane woman to the electric chair. Since the group inflicted almost every sort of assault the human mind could come up with, the omission is puzzling. [87], On October 25, Likens attempted to escape from the basement after overhearing a conversation between Gertrude and John Baniszewski Jr. pertaining to the family's plan to abandon her to die. Sylvia Likens at age 16. She then ordered Dianna off her property. [95][13], Shortly after 5:30 p.m., Richard Hobbs returned to the Baniszewski residence and immediately proceeded to the basement. After three months of torture and starvation, she could no longer form intelligible words and could barely move her limbs. She was afflicted with a notable limp and had to wear a steel brace on one leg. [81] Both Hobbs and 10-year-old Shirley Baniszewski then led Likens into the basement where each proceeded to use an anchor bolt in an attempt to burn the letter "S" beneath Likens' left breast, although they applied one section of the loop backwards, and this deep burn scar would resemble the numeral "3". The Likens' sons regularly traveled with their parents in order to help out, but—due to concerns for their younger daughters' safety and education—they didn't particularly like Sylvia and Jenny traveling with them in this employment. The 16-year-old was then locked in the basement without food or access to the bathroom. Sylvia and her younger sister, the 15-year-old disabled Jenny Fay Likens (she had a limp due to polio and a brace around that leg) had been boarding with Baniszewski since early July. The Indianapolis Star/Wikimedia CommonsJenny Likens, Sylvia’s sister, photographed during the trial. During her testimony, Jenny stated the abuse her sister and, to a much lesser degree, she herself had endured began approximately two weeks after they had begun to live in the Baniszewski household, and that as the abuse her sister was forced to endure escalated, Likens had occasionally been unable to produce tears due to her acute state of dehydration. ", However, Gertrude then informed her, and the other girls in the house, that whenever they "did something" with a boy, they would be sure to have a baby. Within a few short months, Sylvia was beaten, humiliated, and ultimately left to die from neglect and severe abuse. You can't get married now. Shortly thereafter, Lester Likens arranged for his daughters to board with Gertrude Baniszewski, the mother of two girls with whom the sisters had recently become acquainted while studying at Arsenal Technical High School, Paula and Stephanie Baniszewski. "[85], The following day, Gertrude Baniszewski woke Likens, then forced her to write a letter as she dictated the contents, which were intended to mislead her parents into believing their daughter had run away from the Baniszewski residence. Although 36 years old and 5 feet 6 inches (168 cm) in height, she weighed only 100 pounds (45 kg)[12] and has been described as a "haggard, underweight asthmatic"[13] chain smoker suffering from depression due to the stress of three failed marriages, a failed relationship, and a recent miscarriage. They used her skin as an ashtray, threw her downstairs, and cut open her skin and rubbed salt into her wounds. Sylvia Marie Likens, born on January 3, 1949, was the third child of Lester and Elizabeth Likens. Lepper also testified to having witnessed Stephanie strike Likens "real hard" after her mother had ordered her to remove her clothes in his presence. An autopsy revealed over 150 separate strikes against her body. A desperate Sylvia Likens attempted one final escape. [88] She attempted to flee to the front door, although due to her extensive injuries and general weakness, Gertrude caught her before she could escape the property. Born: Sylvia Marie Likens January 3, 1949. Both Jenny and Sylvia informed Dianna as to the abuse they were enduring at the hands of their caregiver on this occasion, adding that Sylvia was being specifically targeted for physical abuse—almost always for things she had neither said nor done. Gertrude could tell too and so she forced Sylvia to write a note in which she told her parents that she’d run away. In July 1965, Lester Likens decided to take up with the carnival again while his wife was jailed for shoplifting that summer. Murder of Sylvia Likens. Murder Victim. [110], The funeral service for Sylvia Likens was conducted at the Russell & Hitch Funeral Home in Lebanon on the afternoon of October 29. [126] He then visibly smirked as he confessed to having himself beaten Likens on anywhere between 10 and 40 separate instances. Sylvia Likens: The Story Of A 16-Year-Old Tortured And Murdered By A Neighborhood. Testimony delivered at trial clearly illustrated Paula Baniszewski and her mother as being the most enthusiastic participants in Likens' abuse and torture. News. Jenny was quiet and withdrawn with a limp from polio. Sylvia was forced to strip naked and shove an empty Coca-Cola bottle into her vagina while the Baniszewski children watched. Paula Baniszewski was found guilty of second-degree murder,[117] and Hobbs, Hubbard, and John Baniszewski Jr. were found guilty of manslaughter. [71] On one occasion, Gertrude held a knife aloft and challenged Likens to "fight me back", to which Likens replied she did not know how to fight. As the persecution of Sylvia worsened, it became increasingly sexual in character. I can tell it! Erbecker then tapped his head to emphasize his reference to her state of mind, before adding: "If this woman is sane, put her in [the electric chair]. This page was last edited on 18 January 2021, at 13:54. One immediate neighbor of the Baniszewskis would later inform police she had heard the desperate commotion and that she had identified the source as emanating from the basement of 3850 East New York Street, but that as the noise had suddenly ceased at approximately 3:00 a.m., she decided not to inform police about the disturbance. She struck her body with a book, shouting "Faker! Jenny could only sit outside the door and listen as her sister screamed. [63] Likens remained silent about the matter, although Marie revealed this fact to her family in late September. But the caregiver could not, in fact, be trusted. [31], Although Lester Likens had agreed to pay Gertrude Baniszewski $20 a week in exchange for the care of his daughters, these weekly payments gradually failed to arrive exactly upon the prearranged dates, occasionally arriving one or two days late. She died on October 23, 1996, at the age of 44, already a grandmother. 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