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L: Likens Case

14 April 2016

Good afternoon! Today's A to Z Challenge post is on another tough topic but hopefully by people reading this, the story will never be forgotten and hopefully one day people won't commit these heinous crimes.
Do you know the story of the Liken case? The Likens were carnival workers in the 1960s and Lester Likens decided to leave his daughters Sylvia (age 15) and Jenny in the care of a Gertrude Baniszewski and her seven children (including a recent friend, Paula, 17) after their mother was arrested for shoplifting. According to the Indianapolis Star, Likens encouraged Baniszewski to "straighten his daughters out". When a payment from Likens was late, Gertrude slapped the girls and quickly the abuse escalated.



Timeline of Key Events:
  • 5 July 1965 - Lester leaves the girls with Gertrude
  • 11 July 1965 - Lester's payment is late, Gertrude slaps the girls
  • 1 August 1965 - Paula breaks her wrist punching Sylvia
  • Mid-August 1965 - Gertrude accuses Sylvia of stealing
  • Late August 1965 - Phyllis Vermillion witnesses Gertrude abuse Sylvia and does not report it.
  • Early September 1965 - Paula chokes Sylvia.
  • 12 October 1965 - Sylvia is sent to the basement
  • 15 October 1965 - Phyllis sees Sylvia's beaten and bruised face and again does not report it.
  • 23 October 1965 - Richard Hobbs carves "I am a prostitute and proud of it” into Sylvia's stomach with a large needle and w/ 10 year old Shirley Baniszewski brands an S on her chest.
  • 25 October 1965 - Coy Hubbard beats Sylvia with a broom, knocking her unconscious.
  • 26 October 1965 - Sylvia succumbs to her injuries and dies. Cause of death is brain haemorrhage, shock, and malnutrition.
Its the stuff of horror movies (see: An American Crime, 2007, and The Girl Next Door, 2007) and one of the most terrible crimes committed in the state of Indiana. Sadly the perpetrators received little to no jail time for their crimes of taking the life of a 16 year old girl whose only 'crime' was being left in the care of the Baniszewski family.

Gertrude Baniszewski was sentenced to life in prison but incredulously and against the outcry of the public she was paroled in 1985 (just twenty years after the death of Sylvia Likens) and died five years later of lung cancer in 1990.

Paula Baniszewski, 17, was convicted of second-degree murder before having her conviction overturned in 1971 due to a technicality. She plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and got 2 to 21 years. Once again the law seems to have been mocking Sylvia by paroling Paula in 1972 despite an attempted prison break.

Richard Hobbs, 15, was convicted of manslaughter and served two years. He died of cancer at the age of 21.

John Baniszewski, 13, was convicted of manslaughter and served two years. He is the only Baniszewski to show any remorse for his crimes.

Stephanie Baniszewski, 15, had all charges against her dropped.

Marie Baniszewski, 11, was never charged and was the only member of the Baniszewski family to cry during the trial.

Shirley Baniszewski, 10, despite her active participation was never charged.

Coy Hubbard, 15, was Stephanie's boyfriend and a participant in the beatings and torture of Sylvia. He was convicted of manslaughter and served two years. He was tried for another murder in 1982 but acquitted.

All together, Sylvia's abusers and torturers served 33 years for their crimes. The law unfortunately was not able to give Sylvia the justice she deserved so hopefully by sharing this and your reading this we can do her some small justice.

32 comments:

  1. Such a sad story. The parents were so negligent to have left their daughters in this person's care. I wonder if they did any kind of screening at all.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Very sad and that neighbor really irks me that she didn't get a slap on the wrist.

      Joy

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  2. That's a terrible story. It just stuns me how heartless people can be.

    #AtoZchallenge
    Meet My Imaginary Friends

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  3. Wow...I will never understand how people can so viscously hurt others. I've never been so happy to hear that people died of cancer (Gertrude and Richard).
    ~Katie
    TheCyborgMom

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  4. Sad that the young children participated in the abuse. Horrifying story!

    (and to answer your question, no I'm not on Twitter; too little time :)

    betty

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    1. and she was a mother involving her own kids and those who depend upon her for care.

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  5. UGH. SO SAD AND ANGRY. happy mobbing honey!!

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    1. Thanks so much for the mobbing! Made and me blog smile :)

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  6. Yiiiikes! That's horrible. :-/
    Nice to meet you tonight!

    AJ Lauer
    an A-Z co-host
    @ayjaylauer

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    1. Lovely meeting you tonight and talking about chipmunks etc :)

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  7. Oh my! Wonderful post and I hope this helps in some way. Will be back! #atozchat

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    1. Thanks Robin! Glad you liked it.

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  8. I have heard about this before. It's a horrifying event that never leaves you once you've heard about it.

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    1. Nope these stories never leave you and yet somehow history repeats itself :(

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  9. What horrible, horrible things =( But history is so fascinating.

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    1. If only people learned from history and this never happens again. Nice meeting you on #azchat, Sarah!

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  10. J here, of the #atozchallenge Arlee Bird's A to Z Ambassador Team.
    How has the challenge been going for you so far? Are you meeting your goals of posting and hopping to other blogs? M= 1/2 way point!
    My blog's giveaways are still going! I'm encouraging everyone to visit more stops.
    http://jlennidornerblog.what-are-they.com
    #FlashMob giving you extra love from #azchat #AtoZChallenge!
    That's some messed up... wow... what the... I'm having a tough time not dropping swear words on this.
    This is why we can't make contact with wiser, higher-intelligent alien life. "This is why we can't have nice things."
    What the f, people. Just saying.

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    1. The challenge is a delight. Thanks J! And you're right sometimes all you can say is "What the f". :x

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  11. I don't know how anyone can intentionally hurt another person like this - other kids, too! Sheesh. I wonder what happened to Jenny?
    Lisa at Tales from the Love Shaque

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    1. Jenny died in 2004. Here's an interesting transcript of her testimony at the trial (Sylvialikens.com)

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  12. What a terrible tragedy. People can be so cruel.

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  13. Justice doesn't always get served in a way that we would like (this is a perfect example of that) Maybe Karma comes into play a little bit because several of them died young.

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    1. I was thinking similarly re the young deaths.

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  14. It's the first time when I've heard about this! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for visiting Anna-Alina :)

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  15. Poor girl, so sad that people can get away with such abuse and nobody does anything until it's too late.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    1. What goes through the minds of people that turn a blind eye... Hope I never have to be tested to see how I would act. Hopefully I'd be strong enough to help.

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  16. How horrible! You are right, they did not get enough prison time. Also horrible that a lot of the perpetrators and accomplices were children. Makes you wonder how they learned so much violence so early...

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary
    MopDog

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    1. and now we have kids addicted to video games where murder is common.

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Thanks so much for sharing with me! Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated!
x Joy

 

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