The Murder Of Sylvia Likens Goes To Show That You Never Really Know Your Neighbors


If you’ve ever read Jack Ketchum’s “The Girl Next Door,” you may not know that the novel was loosely based on the horrific story of Sylvia Likens.

While the 16-year-old and her sister, Jenny, were staying with the Baniszewski family in Indianapolis, Indiana, Sylvia became the unfortunate victim of sadistic abuse. Only three months after arriving at their home, she died from starvation and injuries sustained from ruthless mutilation.

Aside from those directly involved in torturing her, nobody in the neighborhood seemed to be aware that any of this was happening.

This is a photo of Sylvia that was taken shortly before her stay at the Baniszewski house. She and Jenny were living with their mother, Betty, in Indianapolis at the time. Their parents were separated.

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After Betty was arrested for shoplifting in 1965, their father, Lester, decided to send them to live with Gertrude Baniszewski, who was the mother of their new friend, Paula. Lester was a carnival worker, so he believed that this would be a more stable living arrangement for his daughters.

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