FULL TEXT: Indianapolis, Ind. – An Indianapolis mother of seven was convicted of first-degree murder today and four teen-agers, two of them her children, were found guilty of lesser charges in the torture slaying of Sylvia Marie Likens.
The jury recommended life in prison for Gertrude Wright Baniszewski, 37. It convicted her daughter, Paula, 18, of second-degree murder. [Paula Baniszewski was found guilty of second degree murder for her participation in the torture. She appealed her conviction and ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter. She served two years and was released from prison in 1972.] Mrs. Baniszewski’s son, John, 13, and two neighbor boys, Richard D. Hobbs and Coy Hubbard, both 15, were convicted of manslaughter.
The panel of eight men and four women deliberated eight hours.
Second-degree murder is punishable by life imprisonment. Manslaughter carries a 2-21-year sentence. Criminal Court Judge Saul I. Rabb set sentencing for Tuesday.
All five defendants charged with first-degree murder. The state asked the death penalty for all, charging they subjected Miss Likens, 16, to few days. nearly two weeks of torture before her death last Oct. 26.
Testimony indicated the girl’s body bore 150 wounds and that she had been burned, beaten, scalded, branded and starved. Sylvia was boarded in the Baniszewski home while her parents managed a food concession at carnivals.
Sylvia’s abuse started after she reportedly said Mrs. Baniszewski and Paula were whores, according to the testimony. “I am a prostitute and proud of it” had been scratched on her abdomen with a hot needle.
Mrs. Baniszewski, dressed in a black dress, burst into tears when Judge Rabb read the verdict at the end of the 23-day her son's conviction was announced, she cried “Please, I want to see my son.”
They embraced, both in tears before Mrs. Baniszewski and Paula were whisked to their cells.
John's father, divorced from Mrs. Baniszewski, clutched his son and stood holding his hand.
Hubbard, surrounded by his parents and sister, wept openly in his mother’s arms as she wiped tears from his face.
Hobbs, whose mother died in November without knowing her son was charged with murder, was calmed by his father and a sister.
William C. Erbecker, attorney for Mrs. Baniszewski, said he would like an appeal within a few days.
More than 20 witnesses testified that Sylvia was tortured, thrown down the basement stairs, and forced to sleep in the basement.
Key witnesses were three Baniszewski children, Shirley 10; Marie, 11, and Stephanie also was charged with first-degree murder but was granted a separate trial.
Hobbs also took the stand and described his part in the death.
[“Woman Convicted in Torture Death – Girl Had 150 Wounds,” syndicated (AP), Charleston Daily Mail (W. Va.), May 19, 1966, p. 1]
Wikipedia offers a detailed description of this infamous and utterly horrifying torture case.
The case was again in the news in 2012: [Emily Sutherlin, “Teacher's aide fired for revealing role in grisly murder of Sylvia Likens,” examiner.com, Oct. 26, 2012]
For more cases, see: Women Who Like to Torture