Teacher’s Aide Fired for 1965 Manslaughter Conviction

Nick Fishman

Warning.  This is not a riddle and I don’t have the answer.

Do you think that a woman who was convicted of manslaughter in 1965 when she was 17 year old for her role in the murder of child?  What if I told you that this woman had served her time and has not run afoul of the law since? What if I told you that she had been working in an Iowa school as a teacher’s aide for special needs children without incident since 1998?

Guess what?  It happened and the school district recently fired her when they discovered her criminal past.

Teacher’s Aide Fired for Revelation of Role in Grisly 1965 Killing

An Iowa teacher’s aide has been fired from her job following the revelation that she was a member of an Indiana family notorious for torturing and killing a girl in their basement in 1965.

“A week ago today we got an anonymous report that the now Paula Pace was the previous Paula Baniszewski involved in this 1965 murder case in Indiana and it was a real attention-seeker out there, a heinous crime,” Grundy County Sheriff Rick Penning told ABCNews.com today.

Paula Baniszewski was 17 years old in the summer of 1965 when a 16-year-old girl names Sylvia Likens and her sister came to stay with Baniszewski’s family. In the months that followed, Likens was beaten, burned, malnourished and branded with a hot needle. Her body was found in the basement of the home in October of that year.

The case became one of the most infamous crimes in Indiana and has been the subject of several books and movies.

Baniszewski’s mother Gertrude Baniszewski was convicted of first degree murder and Paula Baniszewski was found guilty of second degree murder for her participation in the torture. Several other family members were also convicted.

Paula Baniszewski appealed her conviction and ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter. She served time and was released from prison in 1972. She completed her parole and moved to Iowa.

Baniszewski, now 64, has been going by the name Paula Pace and has worked for the BCLUW school district in Conrad, Iowa, since 1998. She had done some custodial work and was most recently working as a teacher’s aide for special needs students.

Recently, information about Pace’s true identity began circulating around Facebook and an anonymous tipster called police to tell them they should look into her background. Police immediately notified the school and both began doing background checks.


Let’s leave how they are just finding out for now and ask the question, what would you think?  Has the woman paid her debt to society?   Would you want your children in this classroom?  I’d be interested to hear what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would say.  Really.  This is a tough call.  On one hand the conviction occurred 47 years ago.  On the other, it was a heinous crime involving a child.

As to how the schools’ employment background check didn’t reveal the conviction, I can only speculate that they did what most school districts do; they either conducted a statewide background check in Iowa (the conviction occurred in Indiana) and, or they failed to conduct a Social Security Number Trace which most likely would have revealed her given name (the one the conviction was filed under).


Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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  • John Cheavers

    Our system of government allows a person to pay their debt and return to society. Where would we be if everyone who got caught up in a criminal act and was arrested, was forbidden to work for the rest of their lives. Deep background checks unnecessarily damage lives, and if this trend continues, will destroy our system of justice.

    Seven years is as far back as any investigation should go.

    • Nick Fishman

      I appreciate your comment John, but this isn’t a black and white issue. Wouldn’t you be concerned if your son or daughter was in this woman’s classroom? Generally, I agree that people deserve second chances. But I think a that a strict 7 year search rule could create some unintended consequences.

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  • I believe in second chances however, The crime committed on Silva was not something you can just brush off and forget. That poor girl was killed little by little, beaten and humiliated that is not something you just forget. would you want your kids around this sick individual that found nothing wrong with what she or her mother did to this poor defensive girl? Society allows people like her to walk free and thinking that the little bit of time she spent in jail makes up for Silvia’s death. Is that really justice for Silvia’s life time of pain she endured?