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”.
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.
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.
- 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.