The Torture & Murder of Sylvia Likens

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This is the heartbreaking story of the murder & torture of Sylvia Likens which took place in Indianapolis, Indiana in October of 1965. The 16 year old girl was tortured & beaten over a three week period by at least 10 people.  Big trigger warnings in theis story due to child abuse & sexual torture.  This case has been called “the most terrible crime ever committed in the state of Indiana.” Indianapolis Police Department homicide chief and 35-year officer was quoted, saying, “the most sadistic act I ever came across.” 

Sylvia Marie Likens was born on January 3, 1949. She was the 3rd child of 5 children, born between two sets of fraternal twins to Lester & Elizabeth/Betty Likens. The older set of twins (2 years older) were Dianna & Daniel & the younger set (one year younger) of twins were, Jenny & Benny. Jenny suffered from a notable limp due to polio & wore a silver brace on one leg. Syliva loved to roller skate & listen to the Beatles. Her nickname was Cookie. She earned money babysitting, running errands & ironing for friends & neighbors. Sylvia’s parent’s marriage was rocky & unstable. They moved frequently; they lived in 19 separate addresses between 1949-1965  & struggled financially; her father had only an 8th grade education & 5 children to care for. Sylvia’s parents were carnival workers, selling beer, candy & soda around Indiana during the summer. The boys regularly traveled with Lester & Betty, helping them with their job though Sylvia & Jenny would be sent to live with relatives to focus on their education. Their older sister, Dianna was 18, married & lived out of the house at this point. Jenny was described as quiet & withdrawn where Sylvia was said to be outgoing, friendly & confident though normally smiled with her mouth closed to conceal a missing front tooth from roughhousing with one of her brothers.  Sylvia was very protective of Jenny; when they went roller skating together Sylvia would hold Jenny’s hand, allowing Jenny to skate on her unaffected foot.

In June 1965 Sylvia & Jenny were living with their parents in Indianapolis. On July 3, 1965 Sylvia’s mother was arrested for shoplifting & sent to jail. Following her release, she immediately joined Lester. Lester needed to be on the road with the carnival with Jenny & Sylvia staying behind. The girls had recently become acquainted with Stephanie & Paula Baniszewski at Arsenal Technical HS. Lester made an agreement with Gertrude Baniszewsi to watch Jenny & Sylvia & in return, he would pay her $20/week for their boarding & care. Gertrude had promised to take care of Sylvia & Jenny as if they were her own. 

Backstory of Gertrude

Born September 19, 1928. Born in Indianapolis, IN to a working class family. Third of 6 children. On October 5, 1939 her father died in front of her from a heart attack. 6 years later she dropped out of HS & married John Stephan Baniszweski (age 18) at age 16. They had 4 children together. They divorced ten years later; John had become physically abusive toward Gertrude.  Only weeks later she married Edward Guthrie; also abusive & they divorced after three months. Gertrude then went back to John & they remarried, had two more children & divorced for a second time in 1963. (Now she has 6 children).

Weeks after her third divorce Gertrude met 22 year old Dennis Lee Wright & had a son, Dennis Jr. in 1965; now 7 children. Never married Dennis. He left Gertrude & Dennis Jr & never paid child support. 

Gertrude is now 36, a single mother to 7 children, chain smoking & living in squalor at 3850 East New York Street in Indianapolis where she paid $55/month. She was 5’6” and weighed only 100#. She’s been described as a “haggard, underweight asthmatic.” She was said to be suffering from terrible depression & taking heavy doses of prescription drugs. Often neighborhood kids would come & go from Gertrude’s home because she allowed them to do things their parents wouldn’t; drinking/smoking/raunchy sex talk. Gertrude would earn money by charging neighbors a few dollars to do their ironing.

Move into the Baniszewski house:

Sylvia & Jenny moved into the Baniszewski home shortly after the 4th of July holiday. At this point, Gertrude’s kids were Paula (17), Stephanie (15), John (12), Marie (11), Shirley (10), James (8) & Dennis (few months old). Lester knew that Gertrude was poor but didn’t want to pry into the condition of Gertrude’s home. He had also encouraged Gertrude to “straighten his daughters out.” Lester had never set foot into Gertrude’s home before leaving his two daughters in her care. Had he done so, he may have noticed that Gertrude was in no way equipt to take in two more children, now 9 altogether. 17 year old Paula was also pregnant at the time.

Sylvia & Jenny shared a room with 11 year old Marie, 10 year old Shirley & 8 year old Jimmy. There was only one mattress in the room & the five kids had to take turns sleeping on it. 

During the first two weeks, Jenny & Sylvia were treated fairly well. Sylvia would do chores around the house & step up the work because Jenny wore a leg brace & was unable to help. Jenny & Sylvia would attend church & Sunday school with the family. Two weeks into their stay, Lester’s check failed to arrive on the prearranged date & this is when the abuse began. Gertrude became enraged & the Liken sister’s became the target of her rage. She beat their bare butts with a paddle & shouted, “I took care of you two little bitches for nothing!” The money ended up arriving a day or two later. In late-August 1965 both girls were beaten 15 times with the paddle after Paula had accused them of eating too much food at the church supper.

Soon Gertrude was abusing Sylvia & Jenny in broad daylight. Frail & thin herself, she would use a heavy paddle & a thick leather belt. When too tired, she would bring Paula (17) in to help. It was said that Paula & Sylvia often butted heads. At one point Paula hit Sylvia so hard that it broke her wrist in the process. Once the cast was in place, Paula would use it as a weapon against Sylvia.  By mid-August 1965, Sylvia became the main focus of the abuse. It’s possible that Gertrude spared Jenny from continued beatings because of her fragility but only amped up Sylvia’s punishments. Jenny would be told to join in on the abuse or be threatened to be abused herself. The other Baniszewski kids were also encouraged to join. They were practicing karate & would slam Sylvia into walls & to the floor. Her skin would be used as an ashtray, they would throw her down the stairs, rub salt into the skin they had cut open & force her to take scalding hot baths to “cleanse her of sin.” Gertrude grabbed Sylvia’s hair & repeatedly struck her head against the side of the bathtub to revive her when she fainted.

On one occasion in late August Sylvia mentioned she had a boyfriend who lived in California that she met that spring. Gertrude asked Sylvia if she had ever done anything with a boy. Sylvia, not understanding what she meant answered, “I guess so,” saying that they had gone skating & then went to the beach & the park with some boys & Jenny. Sylvia continued talking with Stephanie & Jenny, mentioning that she had laid under the covers with her boyfriend. Gertrude asked her why she did that & Sylvia answered, “I don’t know” as she shrugged. Several days later Gertrude commented that Sylvia was getting “big in the stomach” & looked as if she was going to have a baby soon. Sylvia thought Gertrude was joking, saying, “yeah, it sure is getting big, I’m just going to have to go on a diet.” Gertrude then informed her & the other girls in the house that whenever they “did something”  with a boy, they would be sure to have a baby. Gertrude then kicked Sylvia in the vagina & Paula participated, knocking Sylvia off a chair to the kitchen floor saying, “You ain’t fit to sit in a chair!”. Ironically, 17 year old Paula, was three months pregnant by a married man.  Some believe that jealousy caused 36 year-old Gertrude & pregnant, overweight Paula to focus on Sylvia.  It was said that Stephanie had come to Sylvia’s defense on multiple occasions, trying to remove items from the hands of Paula & Gertrude that were being used as weapons. 

Sylvia would sometimes be starved & other times be force-fed to the point that she would vomit. She would then be forced to eat her vomit. Another neighborhood boy named Randy Gordon helped Gertrude & Paula force-feed Sylvia a hot dog overloaded with mustard, ketchup & spices. This caused Sylvia to vomit which they then forced her to eat.  Due to desperation & starvation, Sylvia would eat leftovers or spoiled food out of garbage cans. 

School resumed in the fall & Gertrude began to accuse Sylvia of spreading rumors that Paula & Stephanie were prostitutes. Stephanie had been jokingly propositioned by a boy after this happened. When they returned home after school Stephanie confronted Sylvia who admitted to saying this so Stephanie punched Sylvia in the stomach. When Stephanie’s boyfriend Coy Hubbard heard about these rumors, he attacked Sylvia; slapped her, banged her head on the wall & flipped her backwards to the floor. Other neighborhood kids would join in & Gertrude was said to have charged neighborhood kids 5 cents to beat, scald, burn & mutilate Sylvia.

At one point, Michael John Monroe, the father of a neighborhood boy, placed an anonymous call to the highschool to report a girl with open sores  across her entire boy living in the Baniszewski house. Sylvia hadn’t attended school in several days, so a nurse visited the home to investigate the claims. Gertrude told the nurse that Sylvia had run away from her home the previous week & she was unaware of her whereabouts, claiming Sylvia was out of control & her sores were a result of Sylvia refusing to maintain her personal hygiene. She also told her that Sylvia was a bad influence to both her own children & her sister. The nurse made no further investigations concerning Sylvia’s welfare.

Nextdoor neighbors Raymond & Phyllis Vermillion initially considered Gertrude as an ideal caregiver to Sylvia & Jenny. They had visited the house twice during their stay. On both visits, they observed Paula physically abusing Sylvia & noticing her black eye. Paula openenly bragged about her abuse. On their second visit they noted that Sylvia had a somewhat “zombified” appearance yet they never reported the abuse to authorities.

Sylvia & Jenny’s parents visited on multiple occasions during their stay with Gertrude. The girls never indicated any abuse, likely because Gertrude was present during their visit. The last time they visited Jenny & Sylvia was late August. When they left, Gertrude turned to Sylvia saying, “What are you going to do now, Syliva? Now they’re gone.”  

In September, Jenny & Sylvia encountered their older sister Dianna at a local park. They both confided in her about the abuse they had been subjected to. They added that Sylvia was the one being specifically targeted though Dianna chalked it up to the girls exaggerating. Apparently Dianna was somewhat estranged from the family & forbidden by her parents to contact her younger sisters.

Around October 1, their sister Dianna visited the Baniszewski home though Gertrude refused to allow her to come in saying that she had received permission from their parents not to allow either of the girls to see her. She then ordered Dianna off her property. Just about 2 weeks later, Dianna happened to bump into Jenny & she asked about Sylvia’s wellbeing. Jenny replied, “I can’t tell or I’ll get into trouble.” What the actual fuck?!?!

October 6th was Sylvia’s last attending school. Gertrude had told the school Sylvia no longer had interest in attending. Apparently Gertrude made this decision when Sylvia admitted she had taken a gym uniform from school because Gertrude had refused to purchase one for her. Sylvia was then banished to the cold basement. Coy, Stephanie’s boyfriend, became a primary attacker, slamming Sylvia into the concrete floor & tying her up for days.  School kids would participate in the beatings, following all of Gertrude’s instructions. They would practice judo on her, extinguish lit cigarettes on her body. Jenny also received a beating when Gertrude discovered that she had stolen a single gym shoe from school to wear on her strong foot. Jenny never told another adult or classmate of the abuse going on due to pure fear. Gertrude had warned that she would be abused just as Sylvia was if she said a word.

Sylvia gradually became incontinent from the beatings & was forced to wet herself. She was often kept naked & deprived of food & water. On October 22 John Jr tormented Sylvia by offering her a bowl of soup though took the soup away when Sylvia tried to eat. At this point, Sylvia was suffering from severe malnutrition. 

Sylvia cried to her baby sister Jenny, “I know you don’t want me to die but I’m going to die, I can tell.” 

As Sylvia continued to deteriorate, she was having issues moving her limbs. Gertrude then began letting Sylvia sleep on the mattress in the upstairs bedroom. That night, Sylvia secretly whispered to Jenny to sneak her a glass of water. The following morning, discovering Sylvia had wet herself, Gertrude forced Sylvia to strip naked & insert an empty Coke bottle into her vagina in front of the Baniszewski children & again banished her  to the basement. Shortly after, Sylvia was told to return to the kitchen & again ordered to strip naked.  Gertrude said, “You have branded my daughters, now I’m going to brand you!” She began to carve the words, “I’m a prostitute and proud of it” into Sylvia’s abdomen with a heated needle.  Gertrude was unable to finish the task & instructed 14-year old neighbor, Richard Hobbs to finish as Gertrude took Jenny to to a nearby grocery store. Hobbs finished the etching as Sylvia clenched her teeth & moaned. Hobbs & 10-year old Shirley Baniszewski then led Sylvia back to the basement where they used an anchor in an attempt to brand/burn the letter S beneath Sylvia’s left breast though they placed it backwards & the deep burn scar burn scar would look like the number 3. Gertrude later said, “what are you going to do now? You can’t get married now.” Sylvia whimpered, “I guess there’s nothing I can do.” Later that day Gertrude forced Sylvia to display the carving to the neighborhood children saying Sylvia received the inscription at a sex party.

 The next day Gertrude forced Sylvia to write a letter.

Dear Mr & Mrs. Likens, 

I went with a gang of boys in the middle of the night. And they said they would pay me I would give them something so I got in the car & they all got what they wanted.. And when they got finished they beat me up and left sores all over my face and all over my body.” 

And they also put on my stomach, I am a prostitute & I am proud of it.

I have done just about everything that I could do just to make Gertie mad and cause Gertie more money than she’s got. I’ve tore up a new mattress and pead on it. I have also cost Gertie doctor bills that she really can’t pay and made Gertie a nervous wreck and all her kids.” 

John tied Sylvia’s wrists to the basement railing, her feet barely touching the ground. He force fed her crackers that she didn’t want, punched her in the stomach & forced her to eat the contents of baby Denny’s diaper as well as her own feces.

Sylvia’s Death

On October 25th Sylvia overheard Gertrude & her kids making plans to dump her in the woods. Sylvia tried to run but with her injuries & weakess, Gertrude caught her, dragged her inside & tried to feed her toast. Severely dehydrated, Sylvia didn’t even have the strength to eat. Gertrude struck Sylvia in the face with a curtain rod with such force that the rod bent into right angles. Coy Hubbard took the curtain rod from Gertrude & struck Sylvia one last time, rendering her unconscious. Gertrude then returned Sylvia to the basement.

That evening, Sylvia desperately tried to alert neighbors by screaming for help & hitting the walls of the basement with a spade. A nextdoor neighbor later informed police that she heard the commotion from the basement but since the noise suddenly ceased at 3am, she decided against informing the police. 

On the morning of October 26th, Sylvia’s speech was garbled & she was no longer in control of her limbs. Gertrude brought her to the kitchen, propped her back against a wall & attempted to feed her a doughnut & a glass of milk. When Sylvia couldn’t correctly move the glass to her lips, Gertrude threw her to the floor in frustration & returned her to the basement. 

Sylvia became delirious, only able to mumble & moan. Paula asked her to recite the alphabet though Sylvia could only recite the first 4 letters. Paula verbally threatened her to stand up or she would inflict a long jump on her. Likens then defecated on herself & Gertrude demanded that Sylvia clean herself. 

That afternoon, a group of Sylvia’s tormentors gathered around her. Sylvia attempted to point at them & say their names, When she got to Gertrude, she said, “You’re Gertie!” & Gertrude responded, saying, “Shut up! You know who I am!”  She was then given a pear to eat which she was unable to bite into as her teeth were too loose. John Jr later sprayed Sylvia with a hose that Richard Hobbs brought in at Gertrude’s instruction in an attempt to clean Sylvia.  She again desperately tried to escape the basement but again collapsed before she was able to reach the stairs. Gertrude then stomped on Sylvia’s head. At 5:30pm Richard Hobbs returned to the house & headed to the basement where he slipped on water & landed heavily to the floor. There he saw Stephanie crying & holding Sylvia’s beaten, emaciated body after she had been ordered by her mother to clean Sylvia.

Stephanie and Richard gave Sylvia a warm, soapy bath & dressed her in new clothes. They laid her on a mattress in one of the bedrooms & muttered her last wish, “that daddy was here” and that Stephanie would take her home. Stephanie then said to her younger sister, “Oh! She’ll be alright!”  When Stepahnie realized that Sylvia was no longer breathing, she attempted to resuscitate her with mouth-to-mouth. While this was happening, Gertrude was shouting, “Faker! Faker!” as she struck her body with a book.

When Getrude realized that Sylvia was, indeed dead, she instructed neighbor Richard Hobbs to call the police from a pay phone. They arrived at 6:30 pm & discovered Sylvia’s mutilated, frail body lying on a soiled mattress in one of the bedrooms. 

Gertrude handed the police officers the letter she had force Sylvia to write & told them that she tried her best to take care of Sylvia, saying she was a troubled child who ran away with a group of unknown boys & became sexually active with them. She claimed she had been “doctoring” Sylvia for an hour or more before her death.  Paula stood with a bible in hand that Sylvia’s death was “meant to happen” & said to Jenny, “If you want to live with us, we’ll treat you like our own sister.” Jenny recited the version of events instructed by Gertrude to the police though was able to whisper, “You get me out of here & I’ll tell you everything.” 


After Jenny gave her statement, Gertrude, Paula, Stephanie & John Jr were arrested on the suspicion of Sylvia’s murder within hours of the discovery of her body. That same day Coy Hubbard & Richard Hobbs were also arrested. All were held without bail pending the trial. 

Gertrude initially denied having any involvement in Sylvia’s death but on October 27 she confessed to having known “the kids,” specifically Paula & her boyfriend Coy Hubbard had inflicted abuse on Sylvia, stating, “Paula did most of the damage” and “Coy Hubbard did a lot of the beating.” Gertrude admitted that she forced Sylvia to sleep in the basement on three occasions after she had wet the bed. The officer replied that she had likely wet the bed from mental distress & injury to her kidneys.

Paula showed no remorse & admitted in a signed statement that she had repeatedly beaten Sylvia about the backside with her mother’s police belt, once breaking her wrist on Sylvia’s jaw & pushed her down the stairs “two or three times” & inflicted a black eye. John Jr admitted to spanking Sylvia on one occasion though, “most of the time, I used my fists” to abuse her. He admitted to burning Sylvia with matches on several occasions & added that his mother had repeatedly burned Sylvia with cigarettes.

5 other neighborhood children who had participated in the abuse, Michael Monroe, Randy Lepper, Darlene McGuire, Judy Duke and Anna Siscoe had all been arrested by October 29. All were charged with causing injury to a person & each released back home with their parents & subpoenaed to appear as witnesses at the upcoming trial.


Sylvia’s autopsy showed 150 wounds over her body & showed that she was extremely emaciated at the time of her death. The wounds were in various stages of healing and severity. She had severe bruising, burns and extensive muscle & nerve damage. Her vaginal cavity was nearly swollen shut yet her hymen was still intact which discredited Gertrude’s reports that Sylvia was 3 months pregnant & a promiscuous prostitute. All of her fingernails were broken & bent backwards & most of her external layers of skin on her face, neck, breasts & right knee had been peeled off. Her lips were so badly bitten that parts were severed from her face, likely from distress. 

Her official cause of death was listed as subdural hematoma from a blow to her right temple. Contributory factors included shock from the prolonged damage to her skin and subcutaneous tissue & severe malnutrition.  When found by police, Sylvia’s body was in rigor mortis, indicating that  she had likely been dead for up to 8 hours before she was found. Her body was noted to be recently bathed, possibly after death which could have increased the loss of body temperature, speeding up the onset of rigor mortis. 


Sylvia’s funeral was held on October 29 & more than 100 mourners were in attendance. Her headstone is inscribed with the words, “Our Darling Daughter.” In June 2001 a 6’ tall granite memorial was formally dedicated to Sylvia Likens life in Willard Park in Indianapolis. It is transcribed with the words, “This memorial is in memory of a young child who died a tragic death. As a result, laws changed & awareness increased. This is a commitment to our children that the Indianapolis police department is working to make this a safe city for our children.” Sylvia’s death is credited to starting Indiana’s mandated reporter law that states that should a member of the public suspect a child is suffering from abuse or neglect, the citizen is obligated to report it to authorities. Sylvia’s Child Advocacy Center was also started in 2010 in Lebanon, IN (initially called Boone County Child Advocacy Center though renamed in 2016). Formed to assist child victims of abuse & neglect. 


On December 30, 1965 the jury returned first-degree murder indictments against Gertrude & 2 of her 3 oldest children, Paula & John Jr. as well as Richard Hobbs & Coy Hubbard. All were charged with having repeatedly struck, beaten, kicked and inflicted fatal injuries to Sylvia with premeditated malice. 

Stephanie had been released from custody D/T insufficient evidence of fatal injury charges against her. She did agree to testify against her family & others accused of Sylvia’s murder. Gertrude, Paula & John Jr were deemed mentally competent to stand trial. 


Began April 18, 1966. Gertrude pled not guilty by reason of insanity.


Deputy coroner Charles Ellis was the first to testify on April 29 regarding the intense pain Sylvia had suffered & that she had been in an acute state of shock for between 2-3 days prior to her death & was likely unable to offer much resistance to the treatment she had been subjected to in her final hours. He indicated that despite the trauma inside & around her genitalia, her body showed no signs of direct sexual molestation. 

On May 2 & 3, Jenny testified against all 5 defendants describing the emotional & physical abuse her sister had endured. She also added that Sylvia had done nothing to provoke the abuse. Randy Lepper testified that he had seen Stephanie strike Sylvia “real hard” after her mother had ordered her to remove her clothes in his presence. He also confessed, as he visibly smirked, that he himself beat Sylvia anywhere between 10-40 times. 

On May 11, Gertrude testified in her own defense, denying any responsibility.

On May 13 Richard Hobbs testified in his own defense, describing the process of branding Sylvia’s skin. He was adamant that despite the fact that his branding caused blood to surface on Sylvia’s skin & she had begged him to stop, that his inflictions where only light.  He also reported that after Sylvia had died, he returned home to watch TV. 

When Marie Baniszewski was called, she admitted to heating the needle that was  used in the branding.  She also said that although many participated in the attacks, it was mostly her mother & Paula.  Another witness testified that she heard Paula openly bragging about the abuse while riding a church bus. 


On May 19, 1966 Gertrude was convicted of first degree murder with the recomemndation of life in prison. Paula was sentenced to second-degree murder, Hobbs, Hubbard & John Jr were convicted of manslaughter. 

On May 25 Paula & Gertrude were formally sentenced to life imprisionment & Hobbs, Hubbard & John Jr were given 2-21 years .


In September 1970, the convictions of Paula & Gertrude were reversed on the basis that Judge Saul Issac Rabb denied repeatedly submitted motions by their defense counsel at their original trial, for both a change of venue and separate trials.[112] This ruling further stated that the circumstances regarding the prejudicial atmosphere created during their initial trial, due to the extensive news media publicity surrounding the case, impeded any chance of either appellant receiving a fair trial. The pair were retried in 1971 & Paula opted to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter (killing of a human being during the heat of passion) rather than face a retrial & was sentenced to 2-20 years. Despite unsuccessfully trying to escape from prison twice in 1971, she was released in December 1972 after serving only 7 years. Gertrude was again convicted of first-degree murder & again sentenced to life in prison. She was a model prisoner & worked in the prison sewing shop. She was known as a “den mother” to younger female inmates & was often referred to as “Mom.” In 1985 at the time of her final parole, she had changed her name to Nadine Van Fossan (combo of her middle & maiden names) & described herself as a devout Christian. At the time of her parole she continued to minimize her role in Sylvia’s death but said  she wished it coule be “undone.” She also said, “I’m not sure what role I had in her death because I was on drugs, I never really knew her.. I take full responsibility for whatever happened  to Sylvia.” She was released from prison December 4, 1986 after serving only 20 years. 

John Jr was 12 at the time of Sylvia’s death & served 2 years; he was Indiana State Reformatory’s youngest inmate. 

Coy Hubbard, age 15 served 2 years.

Richard Hobbs was 14 & also served 2 years


After her release from prison, Gertrude relocated to Iowa & died of lung CA at age 61 on June 16, 1990. She never took responsibility for the death of Sylvia. She mostly blamed any actions on medication she was taking for asthma. 

Paula changed her name to Paula Pace to conceal her past & worked as an aide to a school counselor for 14 years though was fired in 2012 when her  identity was discovered from an anonymous caller.  She is married & has 2 children. The daughter she gave birth to in 1966 during her trial was named Gertrude after her sicko mother & was later adopted.   The other Baniszewski children were placed in temporary foster care & eventually put in their father’s custody. Baby Denny was said to have been adopted by another family. 

Richard Hobbs died of lung CA at age 21 less than 4 years after his release. He was known to suffer from at least one nervous breakdown before his death. 

Coy Hubbard never bothered changing his name & had been imprisoned repeatedly during his adult life for various crimes & in 1977 was charged with the murders of 2 young men though ended up acquitted. He died of a heart attack at the age of 56. 

John Jr went by John Blake & became a lay minister & often hosted counseling sessions for children of divorce. He died of DM at age 52. 

Stephanie was never charged with murder; she changed her name to Stephanie Serikstad & had several children of her own.

Jenny married & had 2 children yet remain traumatized by the events of her abuse. She died of a heart attack at age 54.

In 2015 Sylvia’s sister Dianna was found in a rugged & remote area of an Indian reservation in California after being lost for 2 weeks. She was severely dehydrated & her husband was found dead in the care

Lester & Benny Likens had divorced & Better remarried & died in 1998 at age 71.

The Boneszewski house was eventually torn down & is not a church parking lot. 


  1. Murder of Sylvia Likens. American Torture & Murder Victim.
  2. The Disturbing Death of Sylvia Likens by Heather Monroe
  3. True Crime Edition: The Torture & Murder of Sylvia Likens
  4. Retro Indy: The Murder of Sylvia Likens, as told over 50 years ago
  5. Wikipedia

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