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Ind. Memorial Honors Tortured Girl

June 24, 2001 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Police were stunned in 1965 when they found the battered, emaciated body of a 16-year-old girl, the victim of months of torture by an adult and a handful of neighborhood children.

Thirty-six years after the crime drew nationwide attention, friends and relatives gathered at a park on Friday to dedicate a granite memorial engraved with the image of Sylvia Likens.

``She will live forever through this monument _ even when we are all gone,″ said Sylvia’s older sister, Diana Bedwell-Knutson, 54, of Anaheim, Calif.

The monument is not far from the house where Likens suffered months of abuse after her parents went to work at a Florida carnival and left her and younger sister Jenny in the care of a neighbor.

Not long after the girls began boarding at Gertrude Baniszewski’s home, Baniszewski, her children and a handful of neighbor children began beating both girls.

Sylvia was singled out for torture by Baniszewski, who encouraged the children to beat, torment and burn the bound girl with cigarettes. They used a hot needle to brand her stomach with the words, ``I am a prostitute and proud of it.″

Police were called to Baniszewski’s home on Oct. 26, 1965, and found Sylvia dead in the basement.

Baniszewski said the girl had been beaten by members of a gang with whom she had been running. But Jenny, then 15, told police of the torture.

Baniszewski and four children were convicted. She was paroled in 1985 after 20 years behind bars and died of lung cancer in 1990.

The survivor of the beatings, now Jenny Wade, doesn’t talk much about her sister. But as she looked at the monument and talked to people who remembered her sister’s story, she said she’s glad her sister isn’t forgotten.

``It was so terrible, I guess, all the things you go through,″ said Wade, 51, of Indianapolis. ``I’m glad they’re all here. It means a lot.″