Sylvia Marie Likens
I first came to find out who Sylvia Likens was a few months ago while watching a movie called “The Girl Next Door” by Jack Ketchum. It was loosely based on her story but the shocking details of her torture and death had me seeking answers. I have since found and read the trial transcripts along with newspaper articles from back in the 60’s..
I have to say that for all the years (most of my life) of reading true crime stories this story was the most horrific I’ve ever come across. I also cannot stop thinking about Sylvia from the moment I watched the movie based on this crime. I have since watched “An American Crime” played by Ellen Page, which follows the trial transcripts more closely but still does not even come close to detailing all the torture and abuse she went through. And I read the book “House of Evil” by John Dean.
It’s difficult to read and watch, not for the faint of heart that’s for sure…being a hardened true crime buff as I am I was able to get through it all, but again, this story haunts me daily… usually….
What bothers me most is that Jenny, Sylvia’s sister could have reported this to someone in a manner that would have gotten someones attention. Jenny suffered from Polio and had a leg brace and so getting around was a bit difficult for her…but she seemed to get around when she wanted to walk miles to get to the park, or around school etc…I understand her excuse was fear..however I feel she only feared of getting the same treatment Sylvia was getting….so as long as Sylvia was alive, Jenny was safe….once Sylvia died Jenny has no problem then reporting what Gertrude did…where was her fear then?
Here are pictures of the basement Sylvia was kept and tortured in.
She was pushed down these stairs many times and at least one of those times with her hands tied behind her back. The kids would come home from school and bring in a few neighborhood kids to “have fun with Sylvia” they would push her down those steps, then have her get up and walk back up them so they could push her down again. They also took turns burning her with cigarettes…one of the wounds goes nearly to the bone.
According to the court transcripts, Gertrude and Paula (her daughter) would give her scalding baths every other night…sometimes tying her hands and feet before dropping her into the scalding water. On time the pain was too much for her and she passed out. Her skin was so burnt and damaged it began peeling away leaving her raw…Paula then took salt and would rub it into her open wounds…
2 of Sylvia’s murderers are Gertrude & Paula
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