The case of

Shanda Sharer

Victim

Shanda Sharer

Victim Race

Caucasian

Victim Date of Birth

1979-06-06

Victim Age

12

Date Reported

1992-01-11

Date of Death

1992-01-11

Case Status

Closed

Incident Location

Madison, Indiana, USA

Body Location

Madison, Indiana, USA

Date of Conviction

1992-10-06

Body Discovered Date

1992-01-11

Murderer

Melinda Loveless, Laurie Tackett, Hope Rippey, Toni Lawrence

Who Was Melinda Loveless?

Melinda S. Loveless was born in New Albany, Indiana on October 28, 1975, to parents Marjorie and Larry Loveless. Loveless was the youngest of three daughters. By all accounts, she had a difficult childhood that was extremely unstable; her father, Larry Loveless, was a Vietnam veteran who was an alcoholic and extremely abusive. Larry was a sexual deviant who would frequently inflict sexual abuse on his wife and daughters. He was also physically and verbally abusive. Melinda said that they would frequently hear Larry Lovegood sexually assault their mother Marjorie, who was once hospitalized for her injuries. Larry would steal his daughter’s underwear, wear their makeup, and force Melinda to have sex with other men.

All of this abuse would lead to Melinda being diagnosed with several mental disorders, including depression and suicidal tendencies.

At some point, Melinda began dating 14-year-old Amanda Heavrin. The two would have a tumultuous relationship for a year before Amanda. Meanwhile, Heavrin began seeing 12-year-old Shanda Sharer, a middle-school girl. The two even went to a dance together, which was where Loveless met Sharer. Loveless became extremely jealous and threatened both Heavrin and Sharer.

After Sharer’s mother, Jacqueline Vaught, found love notes between Heavrin and Sharer, she became concerned. The notes implied a physical relationship which was pressured by Heavrin, and Sharer had begun to fail her classes. So Jacque Vaught unenrolled her daughter from the school and put her into a private school, and away from Heavrin’s influence, her grades began to improve and she tried out for cheerleading.

Heavrin continued writing her notes however, which made Loveless continuely jealous to the point of including her wishes for Sharer to die in notes to Heavrin.

Shanda Sharer’s Abduction

On January 10, 1992, 16-year-old Melinda Loveless and her friend, 17-year-old Laurie Tackett, had plans to attend a concert that evening. They picked up two younger associates of Tackett’s; 15-year-old Toni Lawrence and 15-year-old Hope Rippey, and then drove from Madison, Indiana to Melinda Loveless’ house in New Albany. Melinda had a plan that night and showed the girls a knife she had in her pocket, which she said she was going to use to “scare” 12-year-old Shanda Sharer.

However, several times throughout the night, Melinda would express her excitement to kill Shanda, and her good friend Laurie Tackett seemed to know the plan as well. Toni Lawrence and Hope Rippey would later claim that they had no idea that Melinda actually planned to torture and kill the 12-year-old girl.

They went to Sharer’s house in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and Loveless convinced Lawrence and Rippey to go up to the door and invite Sharer to an area known as “The Witch’s Castle” under the guise of seeing her “girlfriend” Amanda Heavrin. Sharer told them to come back later because her parents were still awake.

So the four girls attended a rock concert in the Audubon Skate Park, wherein Lawrence and Rippey had sex with two boys in Tackett’s car.

They returned to Sharer’s house a little after midnight. This time, Toni Lawerence refused to go get Sharer because she was becoming increasingly concerned by Loveless’ apparent desire to hurt or kill her. So it was Rippey and Tackett that went to get the preteen, while Melinda Loveless hid under a blanket in the back because she knew Sharer would refuse to go if she saw her.

As soon as Sharer got into the car, Loveless grabbed her hair and put the knife to her throat. Sharer immediately began to cry and scream not to be hurt, and Loveless told her that she wouldn’t hurt her, but interrogated her about her relationship with Heavrin while Tackett drove to The Witch’s Castle.

Tortured, Sodomized and Murdered

Once there, they forced Sharer to strip down and then tied her hands and legs together with rope. However, they were afraid of the passing headlights, so the girls got back in the car and Tackett drove them to an old garbage dump in the middle of a heavily forested area, off a rarely-used logging road. Lawrence and Rippey remained in the car while Loveless and Tackett took Sharer out and began beating her. The beating became increasingly brutal and Loveless slammed Sharer’s face into her knee, which cut Sharer’s mouth on her own braces.

The sight of blood seemed to set Loveless off, and she attempted to cut Sharer’s throat with the knife. However, it was too dull to do the job, so instead, Loveless and Tackett took turns stabbing Sharer in the chest with the dull blade. This was when Rippey joined in, holding Sharer down while the other girls continued to stab her. Then they strangled Sharer with a rope until she stopped moving and, believing her dead, they placed her in the trunk of the car.

However, when they returned to Tackett’s house to clean off, they realized that Sharer was screaming from the inside of the trunk. Tackett returned outside with a parring knife and continued to stab Sharer until she was quiet again.

This time, sure she was dead, Tackett returned to the house covered in Sharer’s blood and washed off. Afterwards, Tackett and Loveless went for another drive. They realized that Sharer was making gurgling noises from the trunk, so they pulled over. When they opened the trunk, Sharer sat up. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head and though she tried, she was unable to speak.

The girls beat her in the head with a tire iron and then sodomized her it. They beat her until she stopped making noises.

When they returned to Tackett’s house later on, they showed off what they’d done to the other girls. Rippey sprayed Shanda in the eyes with windex and said, “You’re not looking so hot now, are you?”

After stopping as a gas station to pick up a two-liter bottle of gasoline, all four girls drove Sharer to a remote location that Rippey know of off Lemon Road, North of Madison. All but Toni Lawrence got out of the car and wrapped Sharer in a blanket. She was somehow still alive and was begging for her “mommy,” which the girls laughed at.

They poured gasoline over her body and then Tackett lit the match that set her on fire. Loveless then took her turn pouring gasoline over her. Sharer’s autopsy would later show smoke in her lungs, which meant Shanda Sharer was alive and breathing when she was burned to death.

Afterward the Murder

After the murder, the girls went to a local Mcdonald’s where they laughed about Shanda looking like one of the sausages they were eating. Loveless contacted Heavrin and told her what had happened while making plans to pick her up.

A hysterical Toni Lawrence called a friend, Crystal Wathen, and told her about the murder. The girls would later show both Heavrin and Wathen the inside of the car which still had Sharer’s bloody handprints and bloody socks inside.

The next morning, Shanda’s father Stephen Sharer realized that Shanda was missing. Sharer’s mother, Jacque Sharer, arrived at Steve’s home and both parents went to Indiana State Police to file a missing person’s report for their daughter.

Meanwhile, Toni Lawrence confessed everything to her parents, who took her to the police station. Lawrence told police everything, down to Shanda’s name and age, all the girls’ names who participated, and all the places they’d been and things they did. Police quickly found the missing person’s report that confirmed Lawrence’s story.

Later on that same morning, two brothers from Canaan, Indiana, were driving to a hunting ground in the area when they found Sharer’s smoldering body in the burn pile and called police.

Having all they needed, police arrested all four girls on January 12, 1992.

Trial and Verdict

All four girls, including Toni Lawrence, were tried as adults. All four signed plea bargains for the brutal murder in order to escape the death penalty. Laurie Tackett and Melinda Loveless were each sentenced to sixty years. Hope Rippey was also given sixty years, but had ten reduced for “mitigating circumstances.” They served time at Indiana Women’s Prison.

Toni Lawerence was released in 2000. Hope Rippey was released in 2006. Laurie Tackett was released in 2018, and Melinda Loveless was released in 2019. Each served less than half of their sentences.

Father of Melinda Loveless

After Melinda Loveless’ trial, Larry Eugene Loveless, 46, was arrested in Avon Park, Florida, for three charges of rape, six counts of sodomy, and two counts of sexual battery. All charges were committed against children, including Melinda Loveless. However, due to the statute of limitations, he spent only two years in custody for his child abuse crimes.

On December 16, 1998, Larry Loveless committed suicide by jumping in front of a moving bus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Melinda Loveless doing today?

A: Melinda Loveless, after serving less than half of her 60-year sentence and on the 26th anniversary of the murder, was released from prison. Melinda is currently on probation and works as a dog trainer.

Q: What happened to Toni Lawrence?

A: Toni Lawrence was sentenced to 20 years and was released from prison in 2000.

Q: What happened to Hope Rippey?

A: Hope Rippey was sentenced to 60 years and was released from prison in 2006.

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