The Shocking Murder of Shanda Sharer
I research these topics in my spare time so I can share what I am passionate about with others. I'm a stay-at-home-Mom who homeschools three children - this is not my #1 priority. I like to add my own thoughts while I'm writing and keep it conversational throughout each piece. I like to keep things "light and fun", even when discussing dark subjects like true crime. I agree that my writing style is not for everyone and I apologize if you don't like it. All the opinions expressed in the following piece are my own. And yes, sometimes I use Wikipedia as a source but never solely.
Thanks for reading!
PS: This is the updated version of the story. Shanda Sharer 2.0. I received so much criticism from the first version I redid the whole thing. Enjoy!
I want to put a little warning out there for those who haven’t heard of this murder. This story involves crimes against a child. A 12-year-old girl to be exact. She was tortured and burned alive by other girls around her age. it is a difficult story to write about and to read about. Reader beware.
These were the words of Chief Medical Examiner Dr. George R. Nichols. He had been called in to conduct the autopsy of 12-year-old Shanda Sharer. He called his findings, “Gruesome".”
Shanda Renee Sharer was born on June 6, 1979 to parents Steve and Jacqueline. Shanda was the light of her parents life. Even after their divorce in the late 80’s they both remained heavily involved in their children’s life. Jacqueline did move her family to Louisville, Kentucky for a brief stint when she remarried but after another divorce they all moved back to New Albany, IN in 1991.
All good so far. Pretty vanilla at the moment.
Shanda was a very typical pre-teen. She enjoyed her friends, music, cheerleading, played on the volleyball, basketball, and softball teams. She was busy and her life was headed in the right direction.
After the family’s move back to New Albany, IN, Shanda started attending Hazelwood Middle School. It wasn’t long until the upbeat young lady struck up a friendship and eventual romantic relationship with fellow classmate, Amanda Heavrin.
Shanda and Amanda actually met while in detention together. So Shanda was not the stereotypical goody-two-shoes. She got into some trouble just like everyone else! Anyway, they began passing flirtatious notes back and forth and almost immediately became infatuated with each other. That’s kinda cute, right? Aww, young love.
Unfortunately, Heavrin came with some baggage. Though, she was only 14-years-old, Heavrin had a jealous and overbearing ex-girlfriend, Melinda Loveless. Loveless was 16-years-old and held onto a lot of rage and insecurities. It was later discovered that she was “possibly” molested by her biological father, Larry. I don’t know if those claims were ever 100% corroborated. That could be what unlocked her psychopathy.
Allow me to give some brief background information on Melinda Loveless.
Melinda was the youngest of three girls born to parents that were unreliable and unstable. She was raised in an Indiana home surrounded by alcohol, drugs, and sex-crazed, affair-having parents. Both of her parents floated from job to job and dealt with their various demons in extremely unhealthy ways. The three girls made claims of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse from their father but I could not find any hard evidence to back that up. I don’t think it would be a stretch to believe those claims, though.
Her parents did eventually split and her father moved to Florida. This may have been a blessing in disguise in reality. He wrote letters to his girls for a short time but ultimately lost all contact. Good riddance to bad rubbish, in my opinion.
Loveless had been in a relationship with Heavrin for a very brief period of time but she quickly became possessive. I think we, as parents, need to have an open conversation about what a “healthy relationship” looks and feels like. Demonstrating one is highly effective. It may have helped Amanda steer away from Melinda.
Let’s hop back into our story.
In October 1991, Hazelwood Middle School put on a school dance. Halloween or Homecoming themed, I’m guessing? Can you just imagine that dance in all it’s 90’s glory? Heavrin and Sharer attended the dance together that night. They were looking forward to a night of fun, dancing, eating, drinking and being with friends. Instead they got into ugly confrontation from Loveless and her bully friends. They threatened Shanda with talk of killing her and hurting her.
Understandably, this frightened the 12-year-old and she told her mother. Jacqueline did the best thing she could have done and pulled her daughter from that situation. Shanda was transferred to the Our Lady of Perpetual Hope Catholic School not long after the dance. Sadly, this was not enough to deter Loveless. She continued to stalk and threaten Shanda. She was trying to “scare” her away from Heavrin. She saw Heavrin as her property and didn’t want this “little girl” to get in her way.
As the New Year dawned in 1992 Indiana, Loveless and her three friends concocted a plan to keep Shanda away from Heavrin for good. The three young ladies who were in on the “Scare Shanda Sharer Plan” were Laurie Tackett (17), Hope Rippey (15), and Toni Lawrence (15). As far as the “plan” went they just wanted to scare Shanda so bad that she would break up with Amanda and stay away from her. What actually transpires is so much worse.
Allow me to give a brief glimpse into the lives of these young murderers.
Laurie Tackett was raised in an extremely strict and religious household. Her parents were Fundamental Pentecostal Christians. In other words, they were hard core Christians and took every word in the Bible literally. But hey! To each their own!
She rebelled against her parents by changing out of her modest clothing and into jeans once she got to school. When her mother discovered THAT, all hell broke loose! Child services even got involved. Tackett also began to dabble in the occult. Using Ouija boards, rune stones, and pretending to be possessed by a demon named “Deanna the Vampire”. Going through an occult period is kind of standard, though, right? I feel like everyone has scared themselves and their friends by doing “Bloody Mary” or pretending to talk to spirits in graveyards.
Tackett was unstable mentally. She was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder after being checked into the hospital for self harming in early 1991. She was prescribed anti-depressants, patched up, and sent on her merry way. That is the American medical system in a nutshell. Throw drugs at the problem but don’t try to fix/help the underlying issue.
Hope Rippey seemed like a girl who had just fallen in with the wrong crowd. Her parents divorced briefly but reconciled and reunited the family. They moved to Quincy, Michigan for a spell but soon returned to Madison, Indiana. She was just the typical teen who wanted to hang out with friends and not be embarrassed by her parents. She did engage in self-harming behavior after meeting these “friends” of hers.
Toni Lawrence was a young girl that was withering inside. She had been molested for most of her young life, starting at age nine. Nothing much was done to protect her from her abuser, except an almost-worthless protection order. Yea, like that can’t be broken. She was a victim. Toni was depressed and actively self-harmed. She even attempted suicide at one point. So much pain for such a young lady.
January 10, 1992
Shanda was staying with her father, Steve and her step mother. It was a quiet night and Shanda didn’t have any plans. A quiet night in with the family. In the early evening, Lawrence and Rippey knocked on the door and told her that they had been sent by Amanda to pick her up. Shanda didn’t recognize the pair but they obviously knew her and Amanda. She agreed to go if they came back around midnight - after her parents were asleep.
Loveless, Lawrence, Tackett, and Rippey had driven from Madison, IN to New Albany, IN in Tackett’s car that night. During the short drive, Loveless continually talked about how she “just wanted to scare Shanda”. Rippey and Lawrence were totally on board with this version of the plan.
While the gaggle of girls waited for midnight to roll around they went to a local punk rock concert. Two of the girls hooked up with some boys they met while they were there. Talk about a quickie. At 12:30 am, Laurie drove the girls back to Shanda’s house. While two of the girls retrieved Shanda from her bedroom window, Loveless ducked under a blanket in the backseat of the car.
They told Shanda that Amanda was waiting for them at Witch’s Castle. A local abandoned stone structure that had rumors of hauntings, witchcraft, and other scary shit. Every town has a hangout like this, right? In my hometown it was a cemetery by some railroad tracks called “Hell’s Gate”. What about where you grew up?
As Tackett began to drive, Loveless popped out from under the blanket brandishing a knife. She started threatening Shanda and insisting that she confess to stealing Amanda away from her. I would be scared shitless if this happened to me now at 29-years-old. I can’t imagine how I would react if I were only 12!
Shanda was so frightened that she wasn’t even able to mumble a response. All she could do was cry as they drove to an isolated spot “where no one would be around for miles.” Can you feel the terror that must have been pulsing through Shanda? This older girl, who has been mercilessly harassing you, now has a knife in your face. It gets so much worse than just threats of violence.
Once the group got to this densely forested area they pulled terrified Shanda out of the car (some reports said by her hair but I am not 100% on that. It wouldn’t be hard to believe). Lawrence and Rippey stayed in the car as Loveless and Tackett forced 12-year-old Shanda to strip naked. I just want to really drive it home that Shanda was only 12-years-old! Imagine what you were like, what you were doing at that age. AND it’s fucking January in Indiana! It must be close to or below freezing!
The two girls began to punch Shanda in the face. Her mouth was cut to shreds on her braces and she bled profusely from her mouth. The girls punched, kicked, and kneed her all over. This went on for almost an hour. All the while, they taunted her, laid out more threats, and just said horrible things to her. The situation escalated to another level of psychopathy when Loveless straddled Shanda from behind and attempted to slash her throat. Her knife was too dull so they took turns stabbing her in the chest instead.
At this point, Shanda is still alive.
Rippey was either summoned by the other girls or just came out of curiosity but she joined the two. She pinned Shanda down as they wrapped a rope around her neck and began to strangle her. They tortured her until she went limp.
She may have wished for death at this point but there was more torture to come.
This part is debated. Did the girls intend to kill Shanda? or did the situation just escalate out of control? what were their actual intentions?
At this point, the girls believed that Shanda was dead. They dragged, shoved, and kicked her body over to the car and hoisted her small body into the trunk. Her clothes were tossed on top of her and Tackett drove them all to her house to get cleaned up. They must have been a bloody messes…too bad they weren’t caught literally red handed at this moment.
The posse sat together drinking soda and laughing about the atrocious murder they just committed. Around 2 am they could hear Shanda screaming in the trunk of Laurie’s car. Laurie knew that if her extremely strict parents woke up and heard Shanda that she would obviously be busted. So she went out to the car, stabbed Shanda until she stopped moving, then just went back in the house. Like she had finished a chore or something mundane. Tackett came back drenched in blood.
At 2:30 am, after a quick clean up, Tackett and Loveless left to go “country cruising” to the nearby city of Canaan. While they were driving they could hear Shanda making gurgling, choking, crying noises in the trunk. To drown her out they just turned up the volume on the radio. I hope the sounds of her close to death stick in the ears of those girls until the day they die.
Loveless directed Tackett to an isolated spot in the woods. Indiana has areas of very dense woods so as they continue to torture Shanda they don’t have to be worried about being discovered. Unless someone hears them but that’s unlikely at that hour of the night.
Once out of the trunk and barely able to move on her own, Shanda was brutally sodomized with a tire iron. I’m so sorry….They continued to beat her and torture her until they assumed she was dead - again.
They returned to Tackett’s house and cleaned themselves up - again. This is what confuses me about their intentions; they have these “breaks” where they cool off. They step away from the situation but then jump right back into it a short time later. They have ample opportunity to stop and let Shanda maybe live but none of them do. So, was murder the actual plan from the beginning? It is seeming less and less like a crime that escalated out of control.
During this time, Loveless is telling the story what her and Tackett just did and laughing about it. I wish I could know what went through Lawrence’s and Rippey’s head at that exact moment.
This time Tackett’s mother discovered that she had “unauthorized” friends over and told her she had to take them all home. So, they loaded up in the mobile crime scene and drove to a nearby convenience store to buy a 2-liter bottle of soda. They emptied the pop and filled the bottle with gasoline.
This next bit is extremely difficult. It makes me want to cry for Shanda and her family.
Laurie drove to another part of the dense Indiana forest and parked her car. They weren’t far from the road this time, though. Were they getting brave or just sloppy at this point? Shanda was dragged from the trunk. Her little 12-year-old body was beaten, brutalized, bruised, and bloody almost beyond recognition. Lawrence, who hadn’t really done anything except witness the crime up to this point, couldn’t even look at Shanda.
Rippey started spraying Windex directly into Shanda’s face and taunting her, “You aren’t so hot now, are you?” I’m sure everyone can imagine the stinging and burning that the Windex added to Shanda’s already unbearable pain. O my god….Shanda. I am so sorry.
The girls worked together to wrap Shanda’s body in a blanket and laid her on the dirt. Then came the gasoline. They drenched her body and lit her on fire. They watched her writhe and scream in agony before she finally welcomed death.
Your torture is over now Shanda - may you rest in peace sweet girl.
As they left, Loveless made Tackett turn around so they could “make sure she was really dead.” After making their confirmations they went to McDonald’s for breakfast. Where they laughed and compared their sausages to Shanda’s burnt body. Gag.
I am utterly heartbroken by this point.
All four girls worked together to clean the car and hose out the trunk.. Everyone was back home with their own families by 3 pm.
Loveless went on to hunt down Heavrin who was shopping at the local mall with friends. She continually paged her, telling her they needed to meet up because it was an emergency. She then spilled the entire story about what they had done to Shanda. She even showed her a soiled sock and a bloody hand print in the trunk of Tackett’s car. Loveless made her swear to secrecy. Heavrin later stated that she didn’t believe a single word coming from Loveless’s mouth until she looked in that trunk and saw the evidence with her own eyes
Around 10:45 am on January 11, 1992, brothers Don and Ralph Foley were driving and saw what they thought was a mannequin on the side of the road. Here’s a hint - IT’S NEVER A MANNEQUIN! They went back to inspect and realized it was a burned human body. They went and found the nearest phone and called the sheriff. At 10:55 am they placed the call and were told to go back and wait by the body until the authorities arrived. It sounds like it was their job to be temporary angels, standing over and watching her.
The Jefferson County Sheriff came to investigate and initially suspected that it was a drug deal gone horribly wrong. They were under the innocent impression that a crime of this magnitude wouldn’t happen in a small town. They didn’t think a local could, in any way, be responsible.
By this time, Steve Sharer noticed that his daughter was missing. There was not note, no messages, nothing to point to her whereabouts. He made the appropriate rounds amongst friends and family but no one had seen or heard from Shanda.
Steve came together with his ex-wife Jacqueline and together they went to the sheriff’s office to report her missing.
That night, at least one of the girls was overwhelmed with guilt and confessed. Ok, some conflicting information at this point. Some instances say that Lawrence AND Rippey went to the sheriff to confess together. Other sources say that it was Lawrence and her parents. I am not sure exactly how this came about but I know for sure that Lawrence went to the sheriff’s office. Lawrence told the sheriff and the deputies everything that had happened. She named names, places, and gave information about the victim
Within 24-hours, all four girls were in custody. They were charged as adults and a bulk of the evidence used against them was the statement provided by Lawrence. They would have gotten caught eventually but I am glad they were arrested so quickly.
Detective Howard Henry used dental records, given to him by the Sharer family, to positively identify the body. By far the worst possible day ever for a parent.
Each girl accepted a plea deal to avoid the death penalty. Toni Lawrence received the lightest sentence since she had the least involvement in the crime. She was sentenced to 20 years. Of that time she served 9 and was released in 2000. Wow. That is not enough. She may not have had much of a hand in the actual murder but she was a witness. She had the opportunity to stop them or run off and tell someone else!
Hope Rippey received 60 years but this was later reduced to 35 on appeal with 10 years supervised probation. She only served 14 and was released in 2006. Again - not near enough!
The mastermind Loveless and her minion Tackett each received 60 years. They could be out for exhibiting good behavior as early as 2020. Next fucking year my friends! They definitely DO NOT deserve to be able to go out and live a life when Shanda will never get the same chance.
In 2007, Loveless’s lawyer, Mark Small, requested a hearing for his client, claiming that:
He also claimed that the plea deal she signed was null and void because she was 16-years-old when she signed it. Contracts with minors (persons under 18) can not be signed without parental consent - which he said she did not have. But she was tried as an adult - so would that make a difference in his argument?
Yea…that request didn’t go well. It was almost immediately rejected by Jefferson Circuit Court Judge, Ted Todd. It was denied again by the Indiana Court of Appeals in 2008. Small has said that he wants the case heard in the Indiana Supreme Court but as of 2019 I couldn’t find any information that he has done so.
Loveless now sits in prison. But she is not just sitting there like a clump of dirt. She has been given the opportunity to train service dogs. Below I have posted an interview where she talks about this opportunity and how it brought her together with Shanda’s mother.
Melinda doesn’t deserve to play with dogs all day after she tortured and burned a 12-year-old to death. I think this has been a serious miscarriage of justice. I do think it’s good that puppies are being trained well to be service dogs but Loveless should not be given the privilege to care for these pups.
I am not a god-fearing woman but bless Shanda’s mother Jacqueline for donating that puppy, Angel, in her daughter’s name. She has so much strength for showing this monster even an ounce of kindness.
Jacqueline even went on to confront Hope Rippey on the Dr. Phil Show in 2011.
Visit my ART SHOP to see what macabre beauties have been inspired by these gruesome stories.
Parting is such sweet sorrow - well it’s doesn’t have to be forever! I would like to invite you to join my Fan Club and never miss a new post, new art, or any other fun updates. Just fill out the form below or click HERE.