Pure Evil-Gertrude Baniszewski

True Crime


I really had trouble posting this woman’s photos while writing this blog. Her name is Gertrude Baniszewski and she has been dead for many years. She died of lung cancer in 1990 at age 60. She was released from prison after serving 14 years. She was well behaved in prison and the younger female inmates called her ‘Mom” which I found extremely repulsive. In my opinion, she should have received the death penalty. Just looking at her face is like looking straight into my version of what a true demon can look like, especially if you happen to be a young teen and her victim.

This is a true crime story and I am writing about it because I wonder where this creature went when she died. Just imagine her haunting a dwelling after you are finish with this story. Her crime shook me on so many levels because there were so many willing participants in this murder.

I just read a statistic the other day that states the average person walks by a murderer at least 37 times during one’s lifetime. That’s a ROUGH AVERAGE. They blend into neighborhoods, just like Gertrude did.

Profile of Gertrude

  • Born 1929 in Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Third of six children of Dutch/Polish descent
  • Died 1990
  • Married twice-First time she was 16 years old
  • Seven children-six miscarriages
  • Father dropped dead in front of her of a heart attack-She was ten years old
  • School drop out
  • Her relationships with husbands were abusive-her last child was with a lover who left her-She was 34 year old and he was 18 years old.

So, What did She Do?

Gertrude, in addition to most of her own children and several neighborhood kids, tortured, mutilated and murdered Sylvia Likens who was a young girl that was a under the care of Baniszewski. At her 1966 murder conviction, the case was described at the “single worst crime perpetrated against an individual in Indiana’s history”.

Gertrude Baniszewski murdered Sylvia Likens

Sylvia’s parents were traveling carnival workers who met and hired Gertrude to take care of their two daughters (yes, there is a sister) for $20 a week. They thought they had a great deal. after all, this was a loving mother to seven children. Sylvia was 16 and her sister Jenny was 15 years old with health issues. The year was 1965 and the sisters attended church, social functions and high school with the Baniszewski children. The first time Gertrude did not receive her weekly payment on time, she beat both of the girls. She then accused them of stealing candy and the world of seething evil opened at this moment in time. It’s pretty clear that Gertrude was evil to the core because in late 1965 this was her activity with the kids:

  • Encouraged and allowed her older children to beat Sylvia and push her down a flight of stairs.
  • Accused Sylvia of being a prostitute and preached sermons about how filthy women were in general.
  • Jenny was forced to hit her older sister.
  • Baniszewski’s two older daughters brought classmates to the house, in addition to local boys, to beat up Sylvia.
  • When Sylvia became incontinent, she was locked in the basement and given scalding water baths with salt rubbed into her wounds.
  • Sylvia was often kept naked.
  • Sylvia was rarely fed.
  • Sylvia was forced to send a dictated letter to her parents telling them she had run away.
  • Baniszewski and her 12 year old son, John Jr. made Sylvia eat her own feces.
  • Shoved a glass Pepsi bottle into her vagina while tied to a bed. (John Jr.)
  • Carved “I’m a prostitute and proud of it” on her stomach with a hot sewing needle. (Gertrude with help of Ricky Hobbs)

The younger sister Jenny sent a letter to her older sister, Diana telling her what was happening but the information fell on deaf ears because she simply was not believed. Diana thought her sister was making up stories so that they could live with Diana.The older sister did, in fact, make a trip to see Gertrude but was not allowed inside of the home. She saw her sister Jenny outside but when approached, Jenny ran away telling Diane she was not allowed to speak with her. Diana contacted social services who showed up and they were fed a ton of lies. “Sylvia ran away”–“Sylvia is a prostitute and on the streets”–Case closed

Sylvia overheard Gertrude planning her murder. The plan was that John Jr. was going to leave Sylvia in a nearby garbage dump to die. Sylvia attempted to run away but she was caught by Gertrude on the front porch and thrown down into the basement. From this point on Sylvia was beaten repeatedly with a broomstick to the head in addition to a wooden paddle that rendered her unconscious. They left her on the basement floor. Two days later they decided to give her a bath, fully clothed, but Sylvia was dead. Baniszewski’s daughter Stephanie and her boyfriend Richard Hobbs eventually called the police. After a series of insane lies and attempted cover ups, Gertrude was arrested along with her children and various other suspects.

Baniszewski, along with all of her children, Hubbard and Hobbs were held without bail until their trials. Sylvia’s official cause of death was brain swelling, hemorrhaging of the brain, shock, and severe damage to her skin. Baniszewski was sentenced to life in prison. She appealed and the Indiana Supreme Court granted her a new trial based on heavy new media coverage deemed a prejudicial atmosphere. Gertrude was again found guilty of first degree murder in 1971 and sentenced to life in prison. She came up for parole in 1985 and the parole hearing caused outrage throughout the Indiana community. Over 40,000 signatures were collected from citizens that demanded Baniszewski be kept behind bars. It didn’t work and this monster walked out of prison, changed her name to Nadine Von Fossan and moved to Iowa until her death.

Baniszewski was sentenced to life in prison

The Other People Involved

  • Baniszewski’s daughter was fired in October of 2012 as a teacher’s assistance after her past caught up with her. Paula (Baniszewski) Pace shocked everyone when they learned that she had pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the torture death of a young girl 47 years ago.

You can run but you can't hide.

  • Hobbs died of cancer at age 21.
  • Jenny Likens Wade died in 2004 age the age of 54.
  • Hubbard has had constant trouble with the law.
  • The victim’s parents, Lester and Betty Likens divorced and Betty died in 1998 at the age of 71.

Thanks for stopping by and please leave questions or comments below. Remember the victims.

Haunted U.S. Roads

remembering Sylvia Likens


  1. Nettle

    Do you have any idea what Gertrude Baniszewski’s physical ailments were during the time of the crime(s)? I know it make no difference one way or the other and certainly has nothing to do with, nor does it defend what this monster did, it’s more a matter of curiosity. I know she died of lung cancer, but that was later in life. During the time of the crimes she seemed to constantly be pushing her “Ill health”, going as far as to say she was to weak to commit the atrocities she did. She seemed to constantly be begging for medication (it appears cough syrup mostly) and I wonder if she was simply feeding a drug habit to codeine or other drugs that would have been in medications at that time.
    A I said, I think she’s a monster and studied this case at length in school, but could never find out was she “suffered” from physically during the time of the crimes. I’m really curious to see if she was actually sick or just using pharmaceuticals and alcohol (or possibly ingesting other substances) that made her sick. Either way I believe it was used to garner sympathy from the community and then law enforcement as I can’t find any real record of legitimate health issues.

    1. Donna L (Post author)

      She was clearly mentally ill and a pill popping monster. That is all I was able to read.

  2. Erwin Bennett

    My heart bleeds. The inhumanity of it is overwhelming. Lets all be vigilant and protect those that can not protect themselves.

  3. Brian

    This story made me so angry and sick. This evil monster should have gotten the death penalty. Hopefully, she is rotting in an eternal hell with no mercy and compassion. hopefully, someone is torturing her the way she tortured Sylvia. It makes me so angry that liberals actually defend monsters like this. It’s too bad after she got out of prison that people did not stalk and harass her till she killed herself. Again, I hope is she burning in an eternal torturous hell with no compassion and no forgivenes.

    1. J

      To Brian, the guy who said liberals were at fault, Indiana is a red state. Almost 100% of its inhabitants are republicans.

  4. Bonnie Leslie

    Is there any update on Paula Pace( her daughter)? Id like to know if she ever got another job around children. I still can not fathom how she was let out on parole after what she did.

    1. Donna L (Post author)

      Not that I am aware of. Yes, it’s sickening.

    2. Maggie King

      Hey, Yes Paula was a teacher’s aide for many years, and her neighbors said she was quiet, “good with kids” !!!! Somehow her past was exposed, and she was fired for lying on her app. AFTER 14 yrs!!
      Gertie should have been either tortured to death or locked in a cage for the rest of her disgusting existence!!! I woulda helped w/ the torture and I am a diehard pacifist!

  5. Stephen joy

    What makes me so angry about this case is gertrude baniszewski and her children and others involved were given such light sentences the state of indiana should be ashamed of themselves if slyvia likens was my daughter I would haunted down and killed gertrude baniszewski and anyone of them if I would found where they was in most horrible evil manner I could think of. What is even worse is America has glamorise this crime by allowing two movies to be produced on this horrible evil woman she should never been released all of them as far as I’m concerned they should have all been put in concentration camp for rest of their life’s hanging too quick and even spending rest of their lives behind bars was too good for them. I am from England, Manchester and read about this case a few times each time has brought me to tears the kray twins from London did far less worse than gertrude baniszewski much of fact they were around the same decade they got caught and they were never released not properly reggie was only released on compassionate grounds a few weeks before he died. The only thing what makes me happy and laugh when gertrude got released she died of lung cancer five years later hope she was in fucking agony when she was dying cause if I would bumped into her when she was dying of cancer and knew who she was what she had done I would have just said good, glad your dying of cancer after what u did to that poor innocent girl for what nothing excuses all the time and would never disrespect many people who believe in God as nice thing to believe in but would have just said u believe in God do u where does it say in bible shall kill and torture 16 year old schoolgirls doesn’t say does as there is no God and if they was be no God where u are going straight to hell where hope devil puts u through torture with cancer. I am also glad reading about her children that most of them died very young too as the state was too soft with them they should have been locked up for thirty years and should have only been released from a prison or concentration camp once they reached middle age knowing they wasted all their young years behind bars.

  6. Kathryn Wilson

    When I first heard about this I was around the same age as Sylvia. I can’t help but cry every time I hear her story..the movies didn’t do her justice. But they provided insight. I can’t help but also get angry that not only did no one help her but that from numerous reports that the children (except for John in his later years from what I heard and maybe one of the little daughters) ever felt terrible or owned up to what they did to her. They never apologized. I hope Sylvia is up in heaven like the angel she is. And God bless her sister Jenny and diana. I hope to one day pay my respect to Sylvia by visiting her grave.

    1. Donna L (Post author)

      So many people failed this innocent girl. Yes, a very disturbing story and a woman who should have received the Death Penalty in my opinion.

    2. cecilia cole

      Omg she was so beutiful my heart just ache for her its been over 50 years rest in peace sweet heart jesus was rigt there when you suffered you with angels now beutiful your tortures will meet their maker get judged amen

  7. Susan

    I am surprised I have never heard of this story. Mind you I read alot about this stuff. (Idk why) thanks for the story donna, truly heartbreaking, and disturbing !

    1. Donna L (Post author)

      Thanks for your comment Susan. Yes, this was a truly disturbing story. Poor young girl. Hard to imagine that no one helped her.

  8. Kathleen

    I’m not a big proponent for the death penalty but Gertrude and Paula should have definitely gotten it. They made “an example” of innocent Sylvia by their vicious brutality. The State ought to have made an example of them. What is so disturbing is how neighbors failed to help and the parents who put two vulnerable teenage girls in harms way though not intentionally. I think they got their punishment. They had to live with their actions or lack thereof.

    1. Donna L (Post author)

      She truly was a monster and I totally agree with you on this one. The neighbors had to know there was abuse in the household. Poor, poor child. I appreciate your leaving the comments.

      1. Maggie King

        I was 12 in 1965. This murder has always stuck with me. Every adult and system failed these girls.
        Society and its “norms” were very different in the 50s-60s. Not excusing, just thinking back. Child abuse was reported rarely back then. Corporal punishment was used publicly in many schools, including private schools. Even more under the radar was parental abuse and as we know NOW, that included sexual abuse. These were taboo subjects, not spoken of, and less reported.
        This was the era of “we don’t want to get involved”, tragically showcased by Kitty Genovese’s death in NYC. Sylvia, Jenny told Diana, who sent social workers. They told other “adults”….neighbors, even Dad didn’t “want to pry”…so so WRONG, how could they?
        We are more aware nowadays, but horrors still befall our most vulnerable people-children, disabled, mentally ill, our elderly….
        We have a moral obligation to protect those who cannot, period.
        Thanks for the article.

        1. Donna L (Post author)

          I agree and thank you for your your excellent feedback.

  9. Susan P

    I hope this monster is in hell where she belongs. What an outrage that a thing like her got out of prison in only 14 years for the methodical torture of an innocent young girl. There must of been people on the level of serial killer groupies who made the decision to let her out and/or bleeding hearts that fought for her to get out. People like that care NOTHING about the victims in crimes like this. The same idiots that protested the execution of Ted Bundy outside the prison where he was housed.

    1. Donna L (Post author)

      I agree 100% Susan. I had a hard time even publishing her photo. Yes, she actually was well behaved in prison and that factored into her release. Disgusting. She should have received the Death Penalty. I appreciate your feedback on this story. Donna

  10. ali

    first of all i would like to give my deep deep sorrow about what happened many years ago,and i am sure that her soul is going to be in peace for ever.
    since i read this horrible story i have cried a lot for this poor victim.
    i have promise to my self that i will find out where this engle has been graved and i will put a lot of flowers on her stone and show my sorrow and sympathy .
    may God bless .

    1. Donna L (Post author)

      Hello and thanks for your comment.

      Here is information on where Sylvia is buried. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6190702

  11. Larry Guidry

    October 26th, 1965.
    I was only 19 days old in Pensacola, Florida. After finding out about this on You Tube by accident, I never been so outraged as I am now. 50 years ago, Sylvia would be 66, mentaly stable, possible a mom/grandmother, or single, and most of all… alive if she hadn’t been in the hands of a monster. Once again, this is why we all should be damn grateful to be alive. Just treat others as you want to be treated! Thanks for the great post.

    1. Donna L (Post author)

      I appreciate your comments Larry. I couldn’t agree with you more. Take care, Donna

  12. Marlon

    Hey Donna,

    This certainly read like a horror story, I see why you felt compelled to write about it. I know that humanity in general is more or less good but it is scary to think that there are people out there that are capable of such brutality.

    1. Donna

      Hello Marlon,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I certainly agree with you.

  13. Chris

    Wow! This is really scary. I couldn’t live with myself if I had been one of the parents.

    It is amazing how evil some folks can be, I feel like the women and men who do these types of things have a mental illness however. I would say from a professional standpoint that the folks who commit these crimes had something happen to them in their childhood, though unfound, contributes to the horrible crimes.

    I am not saying that they weren’t wrong, they were. They knew better, but what in their minds click and say “I am going to torture and kill so and so.”

    The human mind to be in incredible!


    1. Donna

      Hi Chris,

      I appreciate your comments about this case. Yes, mental illness, combined with many other factors certainly contributed to this nightmare. I do not usually write about crime stories but, I found this so disturbing!

      Take care,


  14. edna garcia

    no way!!!!!!!!!!!! Im scared now! what a horrible horrible thing that happened to the girl! thank you for sharing donna have a great day

    1. Donna

      Hi Edna,

      Yes, this was a shocking crime that certainly would have had different punishments had it occurred today. Thanks for stopping by.


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