Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Torturing Death of Sylvia Marie Likens

A Place of Refuge

The house on 3850 East New York Street in which Sylvia died stands today. There have been several owners and renters but most have not stayed long. The house stood empty for fifteen years before real estate agent Bob Perry sold it in March 2003 to Trey and Tammy Davis. Neither the seller nor the buyers knew of the home's history at the time of the purchase.

Trey Davis is a real estate investor and ordained minister in the non-denominational Overcoming church. Tammy Davis is co-owner and administrator of their real estate investment firm, Refuge Property Management. "I bought it [the East New York St. house] as an investment property for my brother and his wife, Stacy and Julie Davis," Trey Davis recalled, "who are trying to get into the real estate investment business themselves."

Davis set about cleaning and renovating it. As reported by the Associated Press; "The living room ceiling was falling through, the attic was littered with pigeon droppings, and the house needed new plumbing, electrical wiring, carpeting, and heating."

He first heard about the house's gruesome history from some neighbors but "didn't put a lot of credibility in it." He and his brother searched the Internet for "Indiana Murders" but came up with nothing relevant.

"Then I put in "Indiana Murders Sylvia" and pulled up this story at Crime Library," Davis said. "My brother and I both stayed up until 2:00 a.m. reading and researching the case." The two of them thought long and hard and prayed about it, then decided that the place of Sylvia's torture and death should become a shelter for homeless young women.

"The house had been left as a reminder of a nightmare," Davis said, "because no one ever did anything positive with it. If you continue to put a negative stigma on the house, the neighborhood won't progress."

As Bob Perry discovered, "It's the neighborhood haunted house. And it's never been able to keep an owner, and it's never been able to keep a renter."

Davis emphasizes that many people are involved in working to turn the house into a shelter. "My brother and sister-in-law and Bob Perry are all seeking donations and trying to find people who will volunteer their services."

Several Indianapolis groups have pledged support including Wheeler Mission Ministries, Outreach Inc., Mezzetta Construction, and A2S04 Architecture.

Once the shelter opens, it should provide housing for about ten needy women in the 18-24 age range. There is a beautiful irony in transforming this place of torment into a refuge of love and healing.

—Abraham, Priya, The Indianapolis Star, 6/27/03.

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