Gertrude Baniszewski (September 19th, 1929 - June 16th, 1990) was an Indiana woman who was convicted for the torture and murder of Sylvia Likens, a young and innocent teenage girl whom she brought into her home. Her case is considered to be the worst murder case in the state's history.

Early Life

Baniszewski was born on September 19, 1929 to Mollie Myrtle and Hugh Marcus Van Fossan, Sr. She dropped out from high school six years after her father died, and she then married an 18-year-old deputy by the name of John Stephen Baniszewski and had five children with him. They divorced ten years later.

She later moved in with her 18-year-old boyfriend and had one child with him. He later left her after the child was born.

Sylvia Likens

In July of 1965, Sylvia's parents asked for Gertrude to take her and her sister in as boarders while they continued to work as carnival employees. As payment for her cooperation, they would pay her $20 regularly. However, they had fallen short on a payment and Gertrude proceeded to beat the two girls as a result. Thus began a long history of child abuse.


Baniszewski began to physically abuse Sylvia in 1965. She did many terrible things to her. She appointed her own children into bullying her and they would do horrible things to her like pushing her down the stairs. Gertrude also accused Sylvia of being a prostitute, and "preached" to her about how it was wrong to sale your body for money, and that women were filthy in general. She would also hire her own neighbors into torturing the young woman as well. Baniszewski's most horrific act was carving "I'm a prostitute and I'm proud if it" into Sylvia's stomach with a red hot needle.

See also

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