True Crime Tuesday

Today’s Feautre is: Gertrude Baniszewski, the “torture mother.

Story borrowed from The Insider: Strange Murder Cases You’ve Probably Never Heard of (

Gertrude Baniszewski, the “torture mother.

In 1965 police found the emaciated body of 16-year-old Indianapolis resident, Sylvia Likens. She was covered in cigarette burns and sprawled out on a filthy mattress in the home of 37-year-old Gertrude Baniszewski, according to Indianapolis Monthly.

Sylvia and her sister Jenny boarded with Baniszewski because their parents were carnival-workers and traveled a lot. The girls’ father paid Baniszewski $20 a week in exchange for housing his daughters. If the money arrived late and Baniszewski took out her anger on the girls. Eventually, she focused her beatings on Sylvia, alone. But, this wasn’t a crime of an adult beating on a child; Baniszewski was the mother of seven children, all of whom lived in the house and partook in the violent and sadistic attacks against Sylvia. Neighborhood kids, some as young as 10, were invited to join in or watch. No one reported anything.

In October 1965, Sylvia was beaten to death. Baniszewski apparently forced a neighbor to call the police and tell them Sylvia ran away. When police arrived at the home, Jenny Likens, Sylvia’s younger sister, apparently whispered to one of the officers, “Get me out of here and I’ll tell you everything.”

Baniszewski got 20 years in prison and was then released, she moved to Iowa, changed her name and died of lung cancer in 1990. The others, who were mainly children, all got away with short sentences if any.

That is the basic story. Upon further research I have found that during the trial, Gertrude Baniszewski’s defense argued that she was mentally unstable at the time of the crimes. However, there is limited public information available regarding specific psychiatric evaluations or diagnoses related to her mental state.

There have been speculations and theories put forth by experts and observers over the years. Some suggest that Baniszewski’s actions were driven by a combination of factors, including her own troubled personal history, potential mental health issues, and a distorted sense of power and control. Others point to a possible dynamic of sadism and a need for exerting dominance over vulnerable individuals. So was it only the late payments that caused Sylvia’s death or was it Getrude’s own need for a outlet to her anger?

What happened to Sylvia’s sister, Jenny?

Sylvia Likens had a younger sister named Jenny Likens. Jenny was also subjected to abuse while staying at Gertrude Baniszewski’s house but to a lesser extent compared to Sylvia.

After Sylvia’s tragic death, Jenny was removed from the Baniszewski residence by authorities and taken into protective custody. She was placed in the care of child welfare services. It is worth noting that Jenny’s ordeal and the trauma she experienced had a profound and lasting impact on her.

Unfortunately, information about Jenny Likens’ life after the events is scarce, and her privacy has been closely guarded. As a result, there is limited public knowledge available about her specific whereabouts or her personal life following the trial and her time in protective custody.

Looks like “Lord of the flies” can actually happen with and without adult supervision. 

Have a wonderful Tuesday.


Getrude Baniszewski
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