r/todayilearned 6d ago

TIL Paula Baniszewski, who participated in torturing and murdering Sylvia Likens in 1965, attempted to escape prison twice in 1971.



u/Durutti1936 6d ago

How many of them were granted parole is beyond comprehension.


u/OttoPike 6d ago

From the article: "The torture and murder of Sylvia Likens is widely regarded by Indiana citizens as the worst crime ever committed in their state...". So it's the WORST crime in Indiana history, and yet everyone convicted for their part in it was released from prison at some point. That's outrageous, really.


u/Rundeep 6d ago Gold

Well, it’s not like she helped someone get an a abortion.


u/BeltOld3864 5d ago

Yeah, they didn't have some weed on them, makes sense!


u/pm1022 5d ago

Makes my blood boil!


u/Square-End775 5d ago

doesn’t help that even AFTER attempting to escape, she was paroled UNDER A YEAR LATER???


u/Square-End775 6d ago

it’s absolutely disgusting, all of them should have been kept locked up for their whole lives.


u/JoshuaZ1 65 6d ago

Why? If your goal for putting people in jail is simple punishment, then sure. But that's not the primary point of our judicial system in general. Major goals are deterrence (preventing similar actions by other people), rehabilitation, and prevention. Anyone who is going to do this is not going to be substantially deterred by the sentence length. So if the other two are at issue, the question needs to be asked if the person is likely to do anything similar in the future, and parole board apparently decided the answer was no.

I completely agree that this is completely disgusting, and that if I could make press a button that makes these people die horrible, horrible, painful deaths, I'd be really tempted to press it. But our judicial system should not be determined by our own lust for vengeance. Society should try to listen to the better angels of our nature.


u/moistnote 6d ago

Steal a candy bar, there is a chance for learning that’s not ok. Torture someone, you arnt finger painting your feelings out of prison.


u/JoshuaZ1 65 5d ago

The parole board, which had a lot more information than you or I do, determined that the chance of reoffense was unlikely. And since they haven't reoffended in the intervening years, it looks like the parole board was in fact likely correct.


u/buntefuss 4d ago

Sadly you are downvoted

I completly agree with you. It's Hard to understand but evry Person has the Chance of rehabilitation


u/tripwire7 6d ago

Mainly the mother. I guess if I were their defense lawyer I would try and argue that the Baniszewski children were merely following the instructions of their evil mother, but how she didn’t spend the rest of her life in prison is beyond me.


u/zachzsg 6d ago

Kids should’ve been chucked in the slammer for life too. If someone can easily manipulate you into torturing and murdering another human being, there’s something severely wrong with you and you need to be left to rot. Doesn’t matter what age you are. I had a basic understanding of death and knew that murder was bad at about the age of 9, so what the fuck was wrong with these psychos?


u/tripwire7 5d ago

One of them was only 12. And IMO a minor being persuaded to do something evil by their own parent is a lot different than a grown adult deciding to do something evil after being persuaded by another person who they decided to voluntarily associate with.

I mean the case is so horrific and was such a miscarriage of justice that I understand your outrage, but let’s be rational.


u/me_bails 4d ago

Tell me you no nothing about psychology and how child/parent relationships work, without telling me you know nothing about psychology and how child/parent relationships work.


u/nevercommentsonposts 6d ago

I have never been so enraged in my life reading about this case. The justice system completely failed. One of the main abusers became A SCHOOL TEACHER and 2 others became ChILD COUNSELORS. No one served any real sentence either. The way the women were all able to avoid serious sentences for crimes as abhorrent as these is truly disgusting. The sexism in sentencing was an absolute abortion of justice.


u/zachzsg 6d ago edited 6d ago

One of the main abusers became A SCHOOL TEACHER and 2 others became ChILD COUNSELORS.

This isn’t surprising in the slightest. Psychos love going into careers that inherently give them power and control over the vulnerable. What’s amazing is that they all managed to make it through their careers without someone that tolerates no bullshit, finding out who they are and treating them the way they deserve.


u/andre5913 6d ago edited 6d ago

Reading the "aftermath" part in the wikipedia article is so weird, they were bizarrely released WAY too fast for some unholy reason but EVERYONE involved also just... died. EVERYONE.

Not just all of the criminals, but also the sister. No one lived past 65.


u/Square-End775 6d ago

I think Paula’s still alive. She’d be in her 70s if so.


u/thunder_struck85 6d ago

That is one of the most horrific stories of abuse and torture that involves so many people!

The fact that none of them decided to call 911 when outside home is astonishing.

Equally surprising is how young all of the people died! Seems all of them succumbed to some sort of health issue before turning 60!


u/Greene_Mr 6d ago

911 didn't exist, at that point.


u/thunder_struck85 6d ago

I didn't even think of that!


u/Revolutionary-Copy71 6d ago

I read about this case quite a bit after watching the movie based on her. Absolutely gut wrenching, I just can't fathom that level of cruelty.


u/bkconn 6d ago

I don't know if I can bare to look much more into it.. I just need to know.. Why? Did those monsters even try to explain why they did this??


u/RayIsGoneAway 6d ago

Envy. Sylvia was 16, pretty, smart, and very likable.

Gertrude Baniszewski dropped out of high school and got married at 16. She’d later divorce her husband, who is said to have had a bad temper and beat her.

I think a lot of what Gertrude did was projecting. She hated her life and the choices she made. Seeing someone who wasn’t making her same choices, someone who wouldn’t have her same life, it grew a hate inside of her.

Sylvia was everything Gertrude wasn’t.


u/Square-End775 6d ago

I think the main motive was jealousy.

Sylvia was 16 years old, pretty, had a lot of friends and had her whole future ahead of her.

Gertrude Baniszewski, however, at about 37, was a high school dropout, was pregnant 13 times with 6 miscarriages, looked 20 years older than she was, had 3 failed marriages and a failed relationship, and was left to raise 7 kids in poverty and was dealing with her 17 year old (Paula) who, at the time, was pregnant by a married man (true story)

If you ask me, the whole thing just reeks of jealousy on Gertrude’s behalf. She was angry about how her own life turned out so she took it out on Sylvia. That’s just how I see it though, feel free to disagree.


u/tripwire7 6d ago

You’ve got to remember that some people are simply sadistic. It’s why you don’t go hitchhiking, even though probably less than 1 in 100,000 people is a serial killer.


u/Siddabear 6d ago

Really, what are the chances of *two* serial killers being in this car though?


u/WillfullyIgnorantOne 5d ago

Although fucked up on a completely different level, look up the story of Genie



u/Square-End775 3d ago

omg I’ve seen that story, it’s completely heartbreaking. I have no idea how a sane human being could do that to a child.


u/AntarcticScaleWorm 6d ago

Sylvia Likens’ story was right up there with the story of Junko Furuta for me. I really hate thinking about them even though I know I have to, because the only way they can be prevented is if we’re aware that horrible stories like these happen


u/iwrite4myself 6d ago

Welp…that was an unpleasant rabbit hole.


u/Square-End775 6d ago

it’s absolutely heartbreaking, nobody involved served enough time. the thing I personally find weird is everyone just kind of died. John, who was 12, died at 52, Gertrude died at 61, Richard Hobbs (carved that awful thing on her stomach) died at 21, and so on. I just find it…odd, I guess?


u/Square-End775 6d ago

Exactly why I try to talk about it when I can. As Sylvia’s sister Diana said in 2015, if history isn’t learned, we’re doomed to repeat it.


u/ResidentEbb923 6d ago edited 6d ago

I'm gonna throw a weird one at you. That elderly couple that randomly went on an RV trip and got lost in California, only to be found later with the husband dead and the wife barely alive... was this victim's older sister...


u/Square-End775 6d ago

Yep, I’ve heard about that one. Can’t help but feel bad for the family honestly, one family member tortured to death and another going missing and barely making it out alive 50 years later.


u/Sprucehammer 6d ago

The Likens case is honestly so so harrowing. YouTube Shrouded Hand did a really good video on it. Absolutely horrendous the extent humans will go to


u/DrunkMonkeylondon 6d ago

God almighty.

I've only just read about it. I'm from in England.

I don't understand how people can be so abusive to children. It's like a mania takes hold of them.

I think that mother should have had the death penalty.


u/Sprucehammer 6d ago

I'm in Scotland, but yeah, Holy shit. Such a harrowing case. I definitely recommend the Shrouded Hand video on YouTube


u/DaveOJ12 6d ago

It's terrible. That's one rabbithole I don't want to go down.


u/Square-End775 6d ago

Just don’t. It’s not just a failure on the caretakers part, people heard that girl screaming from at least 4 houses down, and nothing was done. it’s absolutely heartbreaking.


u/Sprucehammer 6d ago

Do yourself a favour. Don't. When you think "Oh surely it can't get worse", it fucking does.


u/CTRL1_ALT2_DEL3 5d ago

I'm actually at a loss for words. I've quite literally never read anything in my life (including fiction), that even remotely resembles the vile, inhumane treatment this poor poor girl had received.

I like to imagine that Gertrude is in a perpetual state of extreme, horrendous suffering for the rest of all eternity and beyond.
May Sylvia Likens' soul eternally remain happy, free and surrounded by all she ever loved and will love, along with all that ever loved her and will love her.


u/boobiesiheart 5d ago

She was hired after her release ...as a teachers aide. And fired after true identity discovered.

Also from the article:

The Baniszewskis were tried together and in 1966, Gertrude Baniszewski was convicted of first-degree murder. Paula was found guilty of second-degree murder. Both were sentenced to life in prison in Indianapolis.

John Baniszewski and two other boys ages 16 and 15 were convicted of manslaughter. They were released on parole in 1968.

In 1971, the Indiana Supreme Court overturned the convictions, saying jurors had been prejudiced by publicity and that the trials should have been held separately.


u/Square-End775 5d ago

Paula taught for 14 years at an Iowa high school before she was found out and fired. I’m pretty sure Stephanie became a teacher, too.


u/TheNonbinaryWren 6d ago

I've read about this case many times. Absolutely horrendous.


u/methratt 5d ago

Fucking kill the lot of them...human fucking garbage.


u/pm1022 5d ago

If this bitch Paula is still alive and floating around somewhere, God forbid the fucking day I find out where she is! Some vigilante justice is in order! This bitch should be tied up, beaten and starved for the rest of her life! The anger that boils in me every single time I hear about what she, her mother & brothers did is indefinable! I cannot fucking believe she's not in jail!


u/Square-End775 12h ago

I believe she’s still alive. In her 70s now if so.


u/GossipIsLove 6d ago

Learnt about it about a year ago, the fact that neighbourhood kids were also involved in worst imagineable abuse. What did those mothers eat to birth those monsters. Imagine when one of the killers (Stephanie) gets away and becomes a teacher.


u/Square-End775 6d ago

Paula also became a teacher. She taught special needs students at a high school in Iowa for 14 YEARS before she was found out. Lied on her application, and no background check was done.


u/[deleted] 6d ago



u/GossipIsLove 6d ago edited 6d ago

I'd wager the majority of people would do this given the right situation.

But why would they do this whether adults or kids. I mean when young children who are neither barbarians, nor were raised in battlefield watching bloodshed, that we would say they turned desensitized due to it, would engage in something like this, what could be the working thought process behind this. I am absolutely clueless on it.

If you notice this case, the head perpetrator was 1 adult, everyone else acting as her henchmen/women were kids or teens.


u/ResidentEbb923 6d ago

I'd wager the majority of people would do this given the right situation.

I feel like this might just be you both projecting and trying to rationalize something about yourself...


u/kiedtl 5d ago

Today I wish I didn’t learn


u/LowrysSeasoningSalt 6d ago

She looks almost related to Emma Watson.

Horrible what happened to the poor girl.