For anyone not familiar with the Sylvia Likens homicide, it will forever be known as one of the most brutal and violent murders in Indianapolis history. The crime has been the subject of several books and films. Although the murder occurred more than 50 years ago, it will live with Dianna Bedwell until she departs from this world.
Sylvia Likens was one of Dianna’s little sisters. Not only did Dianna lose her beloved sister to a horrific crime, she also lost Cecil Knutson, her husband to a tragic accident a few years ago. While driving through the desert, Dianna and Cecil’s car broke down.
Sadly, Cecil didn’t survive. Dianna managed to survive on rainwater and orange peels. Her will to survive was so powerful, she just refused to die. Her story about her near death will be captured in a movie titled One Wrong Turn: The Dianna Bedwell Story. Please review the official website (www.OneWrongTurn.film) for additional details about the upcoming movie. Dianna so kindly answered a few questions about her family and her near death experience.
Please tell me about your family.
There were five children including two sets of fraternal twins. Each a boy and a girl. I am one of the oldest—me and my twin brother. Sylvia didn’t have a twin. She came next. And then the last set of twins were both a boy and a girl. My husband always wanted me to tell people the twins’ names. Its Dianna May, Danny Kaye, Jenny Fay, and Benny Ray. My husband got a kick out of that. We were close; all five of us siblings. My mom and dad were gone a lot because of the cleaning business they were in. We were left alone sometimes when we were in our teens. We were very close knit as siblings.
How did your sisters end up moving in with Gertrude Baniszewski?
Years ago we lived at a house on 3838 New York Street. I knew a girl that lived between the Baniszewskis’ and us. Their name was McGuire. I was friends with the older daughter and the younger daughter was friends with my sisters. So they met the Baniszewski children and their mother through Darlene McGuire. So I had no knowledge of this Baniszewski family until this happened to my sister.
So you never had contact with Baniszewski until after this happened to Sylvia?
Yes, that’s right. I never really had any contact with them after they murdered my sister either. I never knew any of them. I never even heard their name until they killed my sister.
Going back to happier times with Sylvia and Jenny, can you tell me if there were any favorite activities or hobbies? I understand Sylvia used to sing in church.
No, we didn’t really go to church other than when we were visiting relatives in Lebanon, Indiana or staying with relatives. I should say because they were big into church. And we enjoyed it, but as far as Sylvia singing? No, I have no knowledge of that.
I also read that you’re a retired bus driver and was married for 28 years. How did your husband help you get through your past?
He was just very caring, supportive and comforting to me. I guess he loved me for who I am. And my past was in my past and he knew that some of the things that occurred were no fault of my own. Again, he was just very loving, caring and supportive.
Can you tell me some of the details on how you got stranded in the desert? How did you survive? What kept you going? I am sure it would have been so easy to just give up and be reunited with your family in Heaven.
Yes, we left the casino and headed for Palm Springs to be with my son and his family for Mother’s Day. And my husband thought this road was a shortcut to Palm Springs and he didn’t want to get into any traffic. Anyway, we went down this road and it led to an Indian reservation, but he thought it was the right road. And when he realized it wasn’t, we were in a rocky area in the mountain area. He tried to turn around, but didn’t see this one good sized rock. We landed on top of it and couldn’t get off it.
It sounds like he made one wrong turn. I understand that you’re making a movie called “One Wrong Turn” based on this story. Can you tell me about it?
Yes, we got lost and I later found out there were so many search parties out looking, looking and looking for us to no avail. He (Cecil) didn’t find out because he passed away out there. We didn’t have any water or food because we thought we were going home that night. We had no medication or anything. My husband tried to jack up the car for several days to no avail. We just stuck to the car. We had oranges that lasted four days and a Banana pie we were taking to my son’s. But I had strong faith. My husband lived seven days out there. We just survived, rested and prayed. My faith got me through it.
I am a Christian and have faith in God. But you have experienced more sorrow in your life than should be allowed for any one person to experience. Would you share your faith and where you draw your strength from?
Yes, the Lord said he won’t put anything on you that you can’t stand or survive. I’m telling you I have always had the Lord in my life. My Lord has made me a strong person. I guess he knew I had to be throughout my life.
He doesn’t give you more than you can handle. You are a truly amazingly strong woman.
Yes, thank you.
How did Sylvia’s death affect you and Jenny? I understand that Jenny never recovered.
No, at times she had breakdowns. She had to go on nerve pills for the rest of her life. But I wasn’t living close to her since I lived out of state. But I know that she had very bad memories. Bless her heart. She just didn’t talk about it. I guess it was hard to deal with. Of course, I understand that it would be for anybody.
Is there anything about Sylvia and Jenny that you would like people to know? Perhaps details that have never been shared that you want everyone to know.
Yes, I will say one thing. They were both sweet, kind, loving, and trusting. And they were virgins. My sister (Sylvia) didn’t even get to taste life. She was yanked up too early for any young lady. I just want everyone to know they were just sweet young ladies. It was a different era we lived in.
Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page at http://www.lifewithgrandpa.com. He also wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on Amazon.com.