Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Torturing Death of Sylvia Marie Likens

Sylvia's Last Weekend

The last weekend of Sylvia's life began when Mrs. Wright decided to let her sleep upstairs in a bed again. However, she attached a strange condition to this: Gertrude instructed John, Coy, and Stephanie to tie Sylvia to the bed so she could not get up during the night to go to the bathroom. "You can't go to the bathroom," Gertrude said, "until you've learned not to wet the bed."

Sylvia wet the bed that night.

The next morning began with a second forced striptease, again climaxed by Gertrude forcing Sylvia to insert a soda bottle up her vagina. Then Mrs. Wright decided to take another revenge on Sylvia for having slandered Paula and Stephanie at Tech High. "You have branded my daughters so I will brand you!" she told the confused teenager.

Richard Hobbs (left) and Gertrude Baniszewski
Richard Hobbs (left) and Gertrude

Then Gerty suggested to Ricky Hobbs that he "tattoo" Sylvia. He eagerly accepted the assignment. Sylvia was forcibly stripped, then tied down, and gagged. Gertrude heated a sewing needle and carved an "I," apostrophe and part of the "M" before handing the needle to Hobbs and telling him to finish the job.

Ricky started carving, then stopped to ask Mrs. Wright how to spell prostitute. She wrote the message out on a piece of paper for him and he burned it into Sylvia's belly.

In a few minutes, Ricky, Paula, and ten-year-old Shirley Baniszewski decided to put another brand on Sylvia. It would be a letter "S" for Sylvia or slave (this point is confused). Ricky burned the first curve onto Sylvia's chest. Then he and Shirley called Jenny over and ordered her to put the second burn on. Jenny was petrified. When she had tried to get out of hitting Sylvia, she had been slapped. Would she be burned if she refused to inflict this torture? Nevertheless, she refused. Shirley burned the second curve on but got it backward so that the number "3" appeared on Sylvia's chest.

In front of Randy Lepper, Shirley Baniszewski, Richard Hobbs, and Jenny Likens, Mrs. Wright taunted Sylvia about the words burned into her stomach. "What are you going to do now Sylvia?" Gertrude said. "You can't get married now, you can't undress in front of anyone. What are you going to do now?"

The weeping, mutilated girl choked out between sobs: "I guess there's nothing I can do. It's on there."

That evening, Sylvia was again relegated to the basement where Coy Hubbard flipped her against the walls. Later, Jenny visited her sister who told her: "I'm going to die. I can tell."

Sylvia was allowed to sleep upstairs that night and the next afternoon she was bathed by Mrs. Wright and Stephanie; however, this was a normal, warm bath rather than a scalding one.

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