Remembering Sylvia Likens, a case that shocked Indy
On this day in 1966, Gertrude Baniszewski and four teenagers — two of Baniszewski's children and two neighbors — were found guilty in perhaps the most shocking and horrifying murder in the city's history.
💭 James' thought bubble: I hadn't heard of this nightmarish case until Mayor Joe Hogsett mentioned it during an interview and walked me over to a memorial for Sylvia Likens in Willard Park.
- Hogsett shared details from memory, a sign of the scar Likens' murder left on the city.
- "I would have been 9 or 10 years old, and it was wall-to-wall coverage," Hogsett told me. "It was just a horrible story."
Catch up fast: For months, Baniszewski tortured 16-year-old Likens, who had been left in Baniszewski's care while her parents were away.
- Baniszewski characterized her relentless abuse as discipline, per news reports, and turned it into entertainment for her children and neighbors.
- Police arrived at 3850 E. New York St. on Oct. 26, 1965, and found Likens dead with a note Baniszewski had forced her to write blaming her attacks on a gang of boys.
- The girl "was malnourished and covered with sores, burns and bruises, many of them old. She had been branded in one spot by a hot metal object, and the words 'I am a prostitute' had been etched on her stomach," per a 2013 IndyStar look back.
- Baniszewski had seven children and "everyone but the baby" tortured Likens, 12-year-old John Baniszewski told police.
The bottom line: The details get far more graphic and shocking from there, making it clear why Indianapolis is still shaken by the Likens case.
Go deeper: The 1965 torture and murder of Sylvia Likens (IndyStar)
School district fires aide upon learning of secret past (USA Today)
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