Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Torturing Death of Sylvia Marie Likens

Deaths of Principals and Destruction of the House That Housed the Horrors

Several principals in the case have died since the last update to this article. Sylvia's sister, Jenny Fay (née Likens) Wade, died of a heart attack on June 23, 2004, at 54.

The house at 3850 East New York Street
The house at 3850 East New York Street

John Baniszewski, who had changed his last name to Blake, had long been severely disabled by complications from diabetes when he died on May 19, 2005, at 52. His family requested that, in lieu of flowers, mourners make contributions in his memory to the church he attended and in which he had been actively involved as a lay minister. Coy Hubbard died on June 23, 2007, at 56. Randy Lepper died on November 12, 2010 at 56.

As reported in Chapter 21, the house at 3850 East New York Street in which Sylvia died was purchased in 2003. The new owners were unaware of its history. When they learned of the horrors that the house had housed, they decided to try to make something good of the building by turning it into a shelter for homeless young women.

However, they were unable to raise the resources needed for this transformation. The house was left vacant. As reported in the Indiana News, it "had fallen into disrepair over the past few years." People engaging in illegal drug use and prostitution frequently made use of the abandoned house — the latter a bitterly ironic fate for the building in which a tortured girl had been cruelly burned with the word "prostitute."

In April 2009, the house was demolished after a local church bought it and the property on which it stood, planning to build a parking lot on the land.

Basement stairs at 3850 East New York Street
Basement stairs at 3850 East New York Street

Neighborhood resident Mark Gray, who took photographs of the site as the house was demolished, was pleased with this turn of events. "It's got a bad aura to it," he remarked. "After what happened in the house, it's just good to see it come down."

Retired Indianapolis Police Lieutenant Tom Rodgers was one of those who organized the demolition. Coincidentally, but perhaps fittingly, he had known Sylvia Likens. "I remember her as a very vivacious, playful, intelligent young lady," he fondly recalled. "She could have contributed much to society."

It is arguable that Sylvia Likens did contribute much despite the shortness of her life. Her ordeal heightened awareness and concern about child abuse and inspired diverse and powerful works of art.

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