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. 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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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,


  9. 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.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *