The Torture Mother
Sylvia Likens was found dead on October 26, 1965. She was only
sixteen. An emergency call was recieved about a girl who had stopped breathing.
When the police got to the house, Sylvia was found lying on a mattress on a
second-story bedroom. She was half-naked laying on a urine soaked bed. Her body
was covered with scars, burns, and welts, and on her stomach was the words "i am
a prostitute and proud of it" carved into her skin. The woman that owned the
home was Gertrude Baniszewski. She gave an explanation of the girls death.
Baniszewski claimed that Sylvia had been staying in the house for the summer, along with her sister Jenny. She had brought the torture and death onto herself by running away. While own her own, she was attacked by a pack of boys, and died shortly after returning home. But Jenny's story was different. The real story started with the Baniszewski house's money problems. Gertrude had been keeping up the home and feeding seven children at the same time. She made a living selling soda pop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and small child support payments from her ex-husband. The family's diet consisted of canned soup.
It was heated on an electric hot plate for they had no stove. Gertrude was given $20.00 a week to watch the Likens children from their parents who were traveling with the Flordia circus. They moved in with Baniszewski in July 1965. When the Likens girls parents were late with their first weeks payment for the babysitting, Baniszewski decided to give Sylvia and Jenny a beating. While beating them she shouted "I took care of you bitches for nothing!" Even though they paid the next day, it didn't phase Gertrude a bit. Her brutality excalated over the next three months. From beatings by hand she moved to paddles, belts, and wooden boards. She singled out Sylvia for the harder punishment.
She also recruited others to help her beat the children. Her first helpers were two of her own children. Then were some of the neighborhood children. One of them used her as a human punching bag buy flinging her into concrete walls and down flights of stairs as a way to practice his martial arts throws. They would also assist Baniszewski. They would, at her direction, ground the glowing tips of cigarettes into her flesh inflicting over 150 burns. The worst still was yet to happen. When Sylvia urinated on the mattress one night, the basement was made her prison. She was starved of any food and forced to eat and drink her own feces and urine. Then she was forced to stick a coke bottle in her vagina as a part of a grotesque strip tease. Then with a heated needle she proceded to etch the words into Sylvia's belly. She died when she was knocked down onto the concrete floor when she was trying to get the attention of the neighbors.
At Gertrudes trial she was given a life sentence. In 1985, she was released on parole.