*Disclaimer* I mean no disrespect to anyone mentioned in my posts or friends/family of the people involved. Any information used in my blogs is found on the internet or in books, and then compiled together for my posts. I do not claim the information in my post to be 100% accurate.


The Murder of Sylvia Likens

| On
May 18, 2019

Sylvia Likens was born on January 3rd 1949 to Lester Cecil Likens and his wife Elizabeth Frances. Her parents were carnival workers and she had 4 siblings. Her family moved around a lot due to their parents' line of work and they often struggled financially.

The boys helped their parents when they worked at the carnival, but the girls would stay with relatives. This was so they were safe and their education didn't suffer. 

Sylvia was described as a pretty, friendly and outgoing girl. She was fond of music and was very protective of her younger sister Jenny.

After their parents' divorced their mother was arrested for shoplifting. Their father made arrangements for them to stay with Gertrude Baniszewski while he worked away.

Attention! The content of this article or section may seem obscene or offensive to some readers.


Staying with Gertrude Baniszewski


During the first few weeks of being there, it was okay. She treated the girls well and Sylvia would spend time with Gertrude's daughter Stephanie and sing with her.

Things started to go wrong when the payments Lester promised failed to arrive on time. To release her frustration she took it out on the girls and beat them with paddles. 

After a month Gertrude directed all of the abuse onto Sylvia. She would be beaten regularly, was kicked in the genitals, force-fed until she vomited, and then forced to eat her own vomit. Gertrude would also force Jenny to beat her sister and threatened her if she didn't do it. 

She would let the neighbourhood kids come to the house to beat Sylvia regularly. These beatings included burning her with cigarettes, using her as a practice dummy for judo sessions, and seriously injuring her genitals. 

Eventually, Sylvia was not allowed back to school after she was caught stealing. She was brutally beaten, repeatedly kicked in the genitals, whipped, and her fingers were burnt with matches as punishment.


After the endless beatings, Sylvia became incontinent and would wet herself. That's when Gertrude tied her up in the basement alone. Sylvia was abused by several people whilst in the basement, and those people actually paid for the opportunity to torture her. 

Gertrude became more sadistic as time went by. She would bathe Sylvia in scalding water and rub salt in the wounds, denied her food or water, and forced her to eat her own faeces.

One neighbour made an anonymous tip to the local authorities about how Sylvia was treated. However, when a nurse visited the home Gertrude said Sylvia had been kicked out of the house and they didn't know where she was.

In an effort to cover up what she did to the poor girl, Gertrude forced Sylvia to write a letter blaming a group of boys for the beatings.

Sylvia's Death


Sylvia Likens died on October 26th at 16 years old. She died of a combination of shock, malnutrition and a brain haemorrhage. 

Gertrude made one of the local boys call the police from a pay phone. When the police arrived Gertrude showed them the note and told them that a group of boys caused the injuries and that she was caring for Sylvia. 

Jenny Likens took this opportunity to stop the police as they were leaving and said: "Get me out of here and I'll tell you everything." Jenny gave her statement, and the police arrested Gertrude along with everyone involved in the torture of Sylvia Likens. 

The autopsy of Sylvia revealed that she had 150 wounds all over her body, she was suffering from malnutrition, and the skin was peeling away on her face, neck and right knee. They also discovered the following words carved into her abdomen: "I'm a prostitute and proud of it."

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Gertrude was convicted of first-degree murder in May 1966 and was sentenced to life in prison. She was given a retrial in 1972 but was sentenced to life again. 

However, in 1985 she was released from prison and relocated. She died of lung cancer in June 1990, and she never fully accepted responsibility for the suffering of Sylvia Likens.

Final Thoughts


This case was very upsetting to research and write about. What Sylvia was put through is disgusting, and the fact it was by the person looking after her is horrific. Their father trusted Gertrude and she abused and killed one of his children.

I can't begin to imagine the suffering both Sylvia and Jenny were subjected to. Yes, Sylvia was physically abused but Jenny was being emotionally abused by Gertrude. It took a lot of strength for Jenny to go with the police and tell them everything.

What are your thoughts on what happened to Sylvia Likens? Do you think this could have been stopped and her death avoided? Please share below.
25 comments on "The Murder of Sylvia Likens "
  1. MY GOD this was shocking to read! I honestly think this could have been prevented in some way had someone come forward about her abuse sooner. What sort of person would pay to torture someone!?

    There are some sick people around!

    - Nyxie

    www.nyxiesnook.com

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    1. I know! It was such a sad case to research and write about, and I really wish she was found and survived the ordeal. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! :)

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  2. Oh my gosh I've never heard of this but it was utterly awful how she was treated and what happened to her!

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

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    1. It's such an awful and sad case. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. :)

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  3. So heartbreaking to know that people would enjoy torturing someone. I don't know if someone could have stopped this from happening if Getrude was only letting people in who had the same twisted mind as her. Hopefully her sister was able to recover from this awful experience.

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    1. It really is heartbreaking, and I just wish it could've been stopped. It's awful to think she was supposed to be looked after. Thank you so much for reading! x

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  4. That is so sad. I just don't understand people any more. Poor girls. Nicely written.

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  5. This is absolutely shocking and disgusting. That poor girl! I can't believe there are people out there who are this cruel and evil...

    - Laura || afinnontheloose.com

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    1. I know! I was a at a loss for words. So many people willingly hurt this girl for no reason at all. Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

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  6. Loved your uniqueness of writing.
    Will be glad if you submit for the 2nd edition of our international magazine: https://bodhisattwapalreview.blogspot.com/2019/05/cosmic-lilt-2nd-edition-call-for.html

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! :)

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    2. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! :)

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  7. It's sad that this ever happened. It's also confusing how someone can go from being kind to sadistic .

    Natalie
    ThisHomemadeHome.com

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    1. It's an unbelievably horrible case. I still feel sad reading about it. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. x

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  8. This is so sad and horrifying, how someone could do something like that is beyond me! I think it could have been stopped sooner if one of the neighbourhood kids told someone, so it’s really sad that they joined in on it instead and were just as cruel.

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    1. I agree with you. It could've been stopped if one of the numerous people aware of it made reported it. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. :)

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  9. Oh my comments yesterday didn't go through;
    I think it could have been stopped, she could have been saved, except that abusers work very carefully to disable victims or those that intersect from thinking that they would be safe to go to the authorities. There is also the effect of bystander syndrome.
    It's so very sad :( I don't understand the mentality that would allow a person to abuse a child in this way.

    https://thatautisticfitchick.com

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    1. It is so sad and I do wish she could have been saved. Thank you so much for commenting and taking the time to read my post. x

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  10. What an absolutely tragic story! I can imagine this was upsetting to research. Poor Sylvia, I truly hope she has now found peace in the afterlife xxx

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    1. I do too. I felt for her so much and wish she could've been saved. Thank you for commenting and reading my post. x

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  11. So dark and upsetting. Thoughts and prayers go out to the family, just so sad when you hear about a death that was avoidable, but it actually seems like a release compared what the poor girl was going through.

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  12. This is an absolutely horrifying one - it's scary because it reminds you of how cruel people can be just being people. Well done for doing the research on this one - I know all murder is bad, but this one is pretty harrowing.

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  13. Fascinating read! I've never heard of this case before. Thank you for sharing this post, you're a fabulous writer x

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  14. This makes me sick to my stomach! It's so shocking and incredibly sad that only ONE neighbour finally decided to come forward and report this incident!! Gertrude got what she deserved although its stories like these that make me feel like she should have received the same torture she put that poor child through!

    Renee @ Maritime Mama

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