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The Indiana Torture Slaying: Sylvia Likens' Ordeal and Death Paperback – 26 Oct 1999

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Borf Books (26 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0960489479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0960489473
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.7 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,321,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on 19 July 2005
Format: Paperback
I've read hundreds of books on true crime, but never before anything as horrific as The Indiana Torture Slaying. This book is by far the most terrifying. Sylvia Likens was just 16 years old when she died as a result of extended and sadistic torture. Sylvias' parents went on tour with a carnival, while leaving her and her younger sister Jenny in the house of Gertrude Baniszewski who supposed to look after them. It was a house of horror run by mother from hell, where her own and neighbourhood children are encouraged to beat and torture the defendless girl. There is no excuse or justification to this pointless crime, yet Gertrude tries very hard to blame poverty and her ill health to avoid responsibility. It's hard to imagine more evil acts committed on another human being. It makes me very angry that Gertrude got away with only 20 years of prison, and others with far less. I don't call it justice.
Because this book is quite graphic, it can be disturbing to some readers, but other than that, I would definitely recommend to any true crime lover as a great story to read. A real page-turner!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x902d8b94) out of 5 stars 21 reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90676e04) out of 5 stars A mind-blowing crime too horrible for words 29 Jun. 2005
By Azuree Riordan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I first found out about Sylvia Likens while doing research on the life and death of Lisa Steinberg in 2004, and this story is one of the most depressing and unjust stories I've read in my entire life. I've since bought and read this book and I'm finally ready to relay some thoughts on it.

John Dean (now known as Natty Bumppo) thoroughly and unabashedly describes the long-term pain and suffering poor Sylvia Likens endured at the hands of her torturers during a three-month stay with her caretaker, Gertrude Baniszewski, that ended with her death (These acts are too appalling to write about in a public review forum). He helps us understand what motivated Gertrude, six of her seven children and their friends to do what they did: having no money, a large family, insane jealousy towards Sylvia, and sadistic fun on the account of those monsterous children (encouraged by Gertrude, of course). Mr. Dean also makes an impartial point in stating how many times several outsiders had a chance to save Sylvia's life, and even how Sylvia could have saved herself from her fate. It's possible that this story could have had a different, happier ending if people had acted differently, but given the circumstances it doesn't seem very likely. (Gertrude was a vile and cunning creature who lied very easily, and Sylvia seemed so fragile at the end of her life that I'm not sure she would have been able to function normally after all the horrific punishment she received had she survived)

*Warning: The next paragraph is an explanation of the four-star rating and may influence your decision to read this book*

*************************************************************************

As for the reason that I've given this book a four-star rating: While I think that Mr. Dean's retelling of this story according to court transcripts is exceptional, I also feel that he is terribly partial in describing Gertrude Baniszewski's daughter Stephanie's role in this atrocity. I won't go so far to say that Mr. Dean is 'biased', but I will say that there was a definite minimizing of Miss Baniszewski's involvement. From what I've read elsewhere, she was in fact a participant, namely in watching (if not participating in) Sylvia's scalding baths and the violent beatings of Sylvia by Coy Hubbard (Stephanie's boyfriend), neither of which are mentioned in this telling. More appallingly, it seems in a few parts that Mr. Dean is attempting to blame Sylvia for Stephanie's failure to help her. I don't say this to take anything away from the author's writing skills, nor am I saying that Sylvia was an 'earth angel'; rather, I am making the point that Sylvia is the one who was brutally tortured until she died. I don't care that Stephanie Baniszewski was 'slender', 'pretty', and 'she continually brought home A's and B's on her report card'; Stephanie was involved and didn't deserve any more consideration from onlookers than the other participants. In an attempt to be a little more understanding of this author, I'll try to soften the abrasiveness of this paragraph with a theory: He's trying to make some sense of why the courts decided to drop the case against Stephanie and allowed her to go to college and eventually become a schoolteacher. Given the gruesome nature of this crime, that personal knowledge sickens me.

*************************************************************************

In spite of the one shortcoming mentioned in the above paragraph, this probably is the truest telling of this sickening, perverse crime and I do recommend it to serious crime buffs. This one-of-a-kind true crime book is worth reading, but approach it with caution as it is indeed a most disturbing tale that's has to be read to be believed.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x904f7fd8) out of 5 stars First-rate 14 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A riveting, and very well-written book, about a horrifying story, that makes you want to puke about how low humans can sink. The book has a construction-paper cover, and is very home-made looking, so it was a surprise to crack it open and find the contents are so much better than your average Random House or Simon and Schuster slick volume. I'd put this book up there with Truman Capote's IN COLD BLOOD, which is a true-crime classic. This book shows how cruelty by some, mixed with apathy by others, can have horrendous consequences.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9047a318) out of 5 stars GREAT BOOK, HIDEOUS CRIME 8 Mar. 2007
By Michael - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Mr. Bumppo's (nee John Dean) unassuming-looking book is one of the masterpieces of the True Crime genre, ranking right up there with HELTER SKELTER, IN COLD BLOOD, and Robert Graysmith's ZODIAC. The crime, which took place in Indianapolis in 1965, was the murder by slow torture of a sweet-looking 16-year-old girl named Sylvia Likens, carried out in unspeakable fashion by a group of Goldingian adolescents under the direction of a depraved thing called Gertrude Braniszewski (a Poster Creature for the Death Penalty if there ever was one). Bumppo/Dean's stark, riveting narrative, and that angelic photo of Sylvia Likens gazing out from the front cover, are guaranteed to haunt all but the most sociopathic among us for a very long time.

Oh, and a note to fellow reviewer Ms. Grubb: there has been a film made of the tragedy, called an AMERICAN CRIME and starring Catherine Keener as the Beast and Ellen Page as its Victim. It premiered at Sundance this year and is due to go into release this August.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90481474) out of 5 stars HORRIFYING 24 Jan. 2000
By Debbie Grubb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'am from Indianapolis, In. and went to school with Stephanie and Paula. My mom had Paula babysit us on ocassions when we lived in Beech Grove, on the corner of Emerson and Alton street. It's terrible to think that someone you knew and even went to their house, was a cold blooded killer. I don't understand why a movie hasn't been made about this torture! My sister also dated (murderer)Steven Judy, who was also a cold blooded killer. Nothing on him either, book or movie. I have the first edition book and would like to get the second. Curious to know what the killer gang is doing today. I know Gertrude is dead. Best book I ever read, held my full attention.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x905101e0) out of 5 stars Top-Notch Writing/Grim Story 10 May 2000
By Ed Hunter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
...As a true crime book, this one has it all (depravity, torture and merciful death along with many details that take the reader right into the midst of the story) and then some. The writer's sympathy and moral outrage are clearly expressed, though not in a heavy-handed way. To convey his outrage, all the author needs to do is state the stark facts of the case. I recommend this to any fans of true crime. Order soon, as the reprint is a limited print run.
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