This is another thing I took from the Yuku board. It was originally posted by our administrator here <hope you don't mind>. I truly believe John B. was sorry about his actions, but I do not like the way that John refers to Sylvia as "That Girl"
THE YOUNG AND DEADLY
JOHN BLAKE WAS 12 AND A KILLER IN 1965. RELEASED THREE YEARS LATER, HE SAW HIS LIFE TURN AROUND. HE TALKS OF HIS CRIME TO SHOW JUVENILES CAN CHANGE.
by NICOLLE GEHR
When Millersville resident John Blake picks up a newspaper or turns on the news and learns about children committing horrible crimes, it takes him back more than 30 years to his dark days in Indianapolis, Ind. Blake is a murderer, convicted in one of the most bizarre and sadistic crimes the state of Indiana has ever seen. In 1965, Blake, then a "confused and angry" 12-year-old boy, participated in the drawn-out murder of a teen-age girl. Today, he admits his guilt, and acknowledges that his sentence - three years in a state penitentiary - was too light. Yet Blake, now a deacon, church volunteer and the father of three, said that God turned his life around. And he believes that other troubled youths who commit adult crimes - like the teen-age boys in Jonesboro, Ark., who shot and killed four classmates and a teacher earlier this month, and the Edinboro teen who killed his teacher and wounded three others Friday - should not be abandoned, but embraced and given hope. In the summer of 1965, John Baniszewski Jr. (he later changed his last name) was living in Indianapolis with his six siblings and his mother, Gertrude Baniszewski, 37. His parents divorced when he was 9. The youngest child in the family, Dennis, 1 1/2, was fathered by another man, Dennis Wright. "The whole situation tore the family up," Blake said, his eyes distant. "My mom was a very selfish, very self-centered woman. My dad though, he was a very caring, average guy, but back then, custody always went to the mother." Blake said his mother used drugs, abused alcohol and had sex with Wright in front of him and his brothers and sisters. Blake guessed his mother moved the family eight times - all to poor areas of Indianapolis. Sick with asthma and bronchitis, his mother didn't work. The family relied on John Baniszewski Sr.'s child-support checks, and when that didn't make ends meet, Blake and his siblings often stole or begged for food. The family also sold its furniture for money from time to time. "She became a mean, hateful woman," Blake said of his mother. "Us kids grew to dislike her. My mom would make me go down to the drugstore to get her illegal prescriptions from a certain pharmacist. She was addicted. "Us kids talked about killing the other man (Wright), so our parents could get back together. But we knew we couldn't do that. It was just talk." But violent talk became more than that. That summer, Wright was sent to Germany with the U.S. Army. Blake admits he had lots of behavioral problems, which is why he believes his mother sent him to live with his father, who still lives in Indiana. In July, to make money, Blake's mother took in two teen-age boarders - 15- and 16-year-old sisters - Jennie and Sylvia Likens. Their parents operated a food concession stand that followed the circus. Jennie had polio. The parents only had known Mrs. Baniszewski for a few days before leaving the girls in her care. One day that summer, Blake came home to visit his family. He saw that his older sister, Paula, 17, had her wrist in a cast. She had gotten into an argument with Sylvia Likens. "I'm not sure how to explain it," Blake said. "I felt like nobody cared about our condition as a family or about me. My anger built up." Blake moved back with his mom and siblings in a shabby rental house. It was then that the slow, torturous killing of Sylvia Likens began. "We abused the 16-year-old," Blake said without saying her name. " … I hate to even say some of the things we did. Anything abusive or torturous was done." Sylvia was only allowed crackers and water. Newspaper clippings from Indianapolis report that she was repeatedly pushed and thrown down the basement stairs by many of the Baniszewski children - even the young ones - and their mother. But it wasn't just the Baniszewskis who abused the fearful girl. Her sister, Jennie, later told police she was forced to hit Sylvia. She was too scared to tell anyone of the abuse.
"Finally, it all took its toll, and after two weeks of intense torture the girl passed away," Blake said, his stare blank. She was killed Oct. 26, 1965. According to newspaper clippings, her body was found by police after Blake and one of his sisters dragged her upstairs and attempted to resuscitate her. Newspapers reported that Sylvia was tortured because she spread rumors at the local high school that two of the Baniszewski girls were prostitutes. But Blake said he helped kill the girl in part because he was so full of rage about his family and his life. "It all built up and just exploded," he said. Blake, his mother, his sister Paula, Hobbs, and another neighbor, Coy Hubbard, 15, were arrested. Stephanie Baniszewski, 15, was tried in a separate trial. The younger children - Marie, 11, Shirley, 10, James, 8 and toddler Dennis - were not charged, although the girls admitted at the trial of joining in the abuse of Sylvia. Blake was charged with first-degree murder - the youngest person ever to be charged with the crime in Indiana. At the trial, Gertrude Baniszewski was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. She served 20 years and died of cancer after her release. Paula, who was found guilty of second-degree murder, which was later reduced to manslaughter, was sentenced to life in prison, escaped once and was recaptured, and served eight years. They were the first mother and daughter inmates at the Indiana Women's Prison. Blake, found guilty of manslaughter, was sentenced to two to 21 years in the Indiana State Reformatory, an adult male penitentiary. Hobbs and Hubbard received the same sentence. The three were released on parole after three years. "I knew I deserved any punishment they would give me. A more severe punishment would have been just. I certainly did know what I was doing. I was too blinded by my anger to know about the results and consequences," Blake said, shaking his head. While in prison, Blake was sent to a minimum-security work camp. He worked with 18-to-21-year-olds. Blake believes he was sent there because officials didn't know what to do with him. Even after Blake hospitalized another inmate at the work camp in what he calls "a prank," he was not sent back to prison. The smallest infraction at work camp would normally land an inmate back in the penitentiary, Blake said.
"My age had a lot to do with this. They treated me as an adult, but reacted to me like a kid. There were no standards for me."
Granted parole a few days before his 15th birthday, Blake changed his last name. He said prison officials advised him to do so, because the name Baniszewski was so recognizable. He moved in with his dad, who remarried "the kind of mom a mom should be." His siblings were in foster homes for awhile until his father got custody. Blake went back to school in Indianapolis. Blake attributes the crime to three things: "I think a lot of it had to do with a lack of a proper family life. Also, human life was so cheap to us. And there was a lack of God in the picture. We had no sense of right or wrong." It was two months after he had been out of prison that Blake said he changed his life after finding God. "I was still angry, confused and still felt like no one cared about me," he said. "Prison did not make a change in me. There's no rehabilitation there. My world was still bizarre." One day after school, Blake was approached by a young man who invited him to Sunday school. With nothing else to do, Blake agreed and showed up at church the next Sunday. "I didn't have peace in my life, but I could recognize it." He said he found that peace through God. "I got down on my knees, and I gave my heart to the Lord. And even before I got up, I knew that my life would never be the same," Blake said, breaking into tears and sobs for the first time in the interview. "After 30 years, it still moves me." Blake began witnessing and became involved in church activities. He revealed his identity to the church. "They didn't treat me any different. I dealt with my remorse and guilt. I finally had peace and joy. I began speaking in other churches and schools … about my experiences." Blake attended two Bible colleges. One summer, he did missionary work and built houses for the needy in Mississippi. He met his wife of 24 years, Lois, a native of Washington Boro, at the second school in Ohio. "She knew my background, because I didn't make no bones about it," he said. He has served as a camp pastor. He's worked with senior citizens and people with handicaps. He is the father of three children. Blake and his wife are both deacons at New Life Assembly of God in Lancaster. He serves as head of the men's ministry group that "helps men become better fathers, better husbands." He also leads the church's version of Cub Scouts to mentor young boys. "The people that know me, know about it," he said. He talks about writing a book "about my experiences, that in spite of tragedy, you can turn your life around." He also said there is a chance he may return to Indianapolis this fall to speak at the church where he was saved and at area schools. Blake has no clear-cut answers to how harshly the two boys accused of gunning down four classmates and a teacher at a rural middle school in Jonesboro, Ark., should be punished. Part of the reason he is speaking out is to tell people that there can be a future for youngsters who commit adult crimes. He said he is proof of that. "There is hope. There is purpose. You don't have to deal with anger like this. That's what I'd tell them. But as a civilized society, we can't tolerate this. I would say some punishment has to be exerted. When you do adult things, you must face the consequences as an adult. But at the same time, there is the possibility for hope and direction there. I would love the opportunity to go down there and talk to those boys." The congregation at New Life Assembly of God seems to have accepted Blake, said Pastor Larry Greineder. "He's spoken about it in Sunday School," Greineder said. "He shares his testimony with the congregation. He never really tried to hide it." Blake also teaches Sunday School. "He's a very active member, a real part of our congregation. He made a mistake in life, and the Lord has forgiven him, and we here accept that. I think he still feels bad, but I think the Lord is really using him now to bring healing to those in similar situations." Disabled by complications from diabetes, Blake now walks with a cane or walker. The illness has dimmed his eyesight. Now on disability because of his illness, Blake worked as a truck driver, a Realtor and a self-employed landscaper. "When much has been given, much is required," he said. "That's why I feel a need to do this. I'm the first one to acknowledge that I was underpunished. That's why I think my responsibility is so great.
"I want to convey that there is hope. No, not everybody that grows up with problems will have the problems that we had. I know a lot of mercy and grace was given to me."
"I cant hear a word these people are saying cause the voice of Sylvia Likens cries out to both god and man."