• Publication date: September 21, 2012

An American Crime

Based on the true story of the torture and murder of Sylvia Likens by Indianapolis housewife Gertrude Baniszewski in 1965, this 2007 recounting of this hideous crime will send chills down your spine.

  • Publication date: September 21, 2012

An American Crime

Program data

Duration: 90

Production Year: 2007

MBC Max:

March 21, 2014 04:30 (KSA) ~ March 21, 2014 03:30 (CLT)

When Betty Likens and Lester Likens reconcile after a life of working the carnival circuit, they decide to go on tour again. Thus they leave their 16-year old Sylvia and her 15-year old sister Betty Likens in the care of Gertrude Baniszewski, a single mother with 6 children, with the promise of paying her twenty dollars a week for her efforts of taking care of the 2 girls.

When the parents' weekly payment is late, Gertrude is upset and initiates the first act of punishment by whipping the girls with a belt. Soon after the payment arrives with a letter from the parents, but Gertrude throws the letter in the trash.

Gertrude's eldest daughter Paula reveals to Sylvia that she is pregnant from her boyfriend, but when Sylvia defends Paula from her boyfriend beating her by telling him that she's pregnant, Paula tells her mom Gertrude that Sylvia is spreading rumors about her. From that point on Gertrude embarks on a journey of torture and humiliation, inviting her children and their friends to participate- eventually leaving Sylvia dead.


  • Ellen Page
  • Catherine Keener
  • Hayley McFarland
  • Ari Graynor
  • Scout Taylor-Compton
  • Nick Searcy

Directed by:  Tommy O'Haver

Rating:  R for strong and disturbing depiction of child abuse and torture.