The gruesome murder of 12-year-old Shanda Sharer shocked the entire American nation on January 11, 1992, when her burnt body was discovered by 2 local boys in Jeffersonville. The actions of the 4 teenage girls who carried out the murder were condemned by the International Community and the crime has been analyzed on several crime documentary movies over the years.
What shocked most people was that the girls that perpetuated this gruesome crime were all teenagers aged between 15 and 17. It was a case of lust, jealousy, and negative youthful exuberance taken too far. Let us look at the facts of this famous heinous crime and the actors involved in it.
Who is Shanda Sharer?
Shanda Sharer was born in Pineville, Kentucky to Stephen Sharer and Jacqueline Vaught on June 6, 1979. When her parents got divorced, she moved with her mother to Louisville when she remarried, and Shanda went to St. Paul School where she did her fifth and sixth grades, joining the softball and volleyball teams, as well as the cheerleading team.
Her mother divorced again, they moved to New Albany, Indiana where she enrolled at Hazelwood Middle School. She was withdrawn from this school and enrolled in Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in New Albany.
Why was Shanda Sharer murdered?
Love, lust or youthful infatuation is a very deadly weapon in the wrong hands, and this was what sowed seeds of discord in Shanda’s eventual killers.
Melinda Loveless – a 14-year-old teenager was dating another girl, Amanda Heavrin in 1990, and it was reported that their love paled out towards the end of the year but they never really left each other. Shanda and Amanda were both students at Hazelwood Junior High, and during the fall semester, they both got into a fight that earned them detention.
While in detention they somehow made up and exchanged love notes with each other, with a sort of relationship developing between the pair. This got Melinda jealous, and she confronted them at a school dance they attended together.
In October of 1991, Shanda and Heavrin went to a festival together and Melinda reportedly trailed them there and threatened to kill Shanda publicly, if she didn’t leave her girlfriend alone. Melinda began sending love letters again to Heavrin threatening to kill Shanda in them. As a result of the public threat, Shanda’s parents took proactive steps by withdrawing her from her current school to a Catholic School a month later.
How was Shanda Sharer murdered?
On January 10, 1992, Laurie drove her friends – Toni and Hope from Madison to go pick up Melinda in New Albany. Melinda told the girls about Shanda, accusing her of stealing her girlfriend and that she wanted to go and scare her to leave Heavrin alone while showing the girls a knife she brought along with her for that purpose. Enroute to Shanda’s father’s house in Jeffersonville, Melinda mentioned to the girls that she couldn’t wait to kill Shanda.
Melinda instructed Toni and Hope to pose as Heavrin’s friends and to tell her that Heavrin was waiting for her somewhere and to come with the girls. Though Shanda initially refused to follow them on the account that her parents were still awake, she asked them to come back at around midnight.
All 4 girls went then went to a concert, returning for Shanda at about 12:30 am in the morning – this time, Hope and Laurie came for Shanda with Toni declining to on account of another threat by Melinda to longing to kill Shanda.
When Hope and Laurie picked up a reluctant Shanda at past midnight, she was questioned about her romantic involvement with Heavrin by Hope on their way to the rendezvous point at which point Melinda jumped out from under the blanket she was hiding under and held the knife to her throat.
They initially took Shanda into the abandoned building where they initially taunted and threatened her, but later left with her when they feared a cloth they had set on fire would attract passers-by. They now took her to a nearby forest where Laurie and Melinda stripped Shanda naked, and the latter repeatedly punched her with her fists while slamming her head into her knees.
Melinda then tried slitting Shanda’s throat unsuccessfully, but she and Laurie then took turns stabbing her in the chest before strangling her with a rope till she was unconscious; they then put her in the trunk of their car and returned Laurie’s house to clean themselves up.
The girls now drove with the unconscious Shanda in the trunk to a nearby burn pile, with Laurie stopping along the way to buy gasoline into her car – putting some into an emptied out bottle of Pepsi she had bought at the station. At the burn pile, Laurie and Hope wrapped Shanda in a blanket and carried her to a field, where Laurie asked Hope to pour some of the gasoline on Shanda’s dead body and they proceeded to set her on fire; Toni remained in the car throughout this process. Melinda was not convinced that Shanda was dead, and asked the girls to pour the rest of the gasoline on her before setting her corpse on fire for the second time.
What happened to her murderers?
Shanda’s charred corpse was discovered by the roadside and reported to local police by 2 brothers going on a hunting trip, the police couldn’t tell whose body it was, but when Hope and Toni (accompanied by their parents) reported the crime at the Jefferson County Sherrif’s office, identifying Shanda as the corpse and naming both Melinda and Laurie as the brains behind the crime, all four girls were rounded up and arrested.
After a trial that lasted a few months, all 4 girls were found guilty of the crime and received varying sentences. Melinda and Hope were sentenced to 60 years each at the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. Rippey was initially sentenced to 60 years as well, but when she appealed the judgment, it was reduced to 35 years. Toni for her involvement in the crime was sentenced to a maximum of 20 years behind bars.
The effect her gruesome murder had on her father?
Shanda was staying with her father on the weekend she was lured away to her eventual death by Hope, Rippey, and Toni Toni, under the deceit that her love interest, Amanda Heavrin was waiting for her somewhere. Though Shanda snuck out of the house to go with the girls to meet Heavrin, her death had a devastating effect on her father which ultimately led to his demise.
His daughter’s death shattered Stephen Sharer’s heart into a million pieces and turned him into an alcoholic, eventually dying from alcoholism in 2005. His ex-wife and Shanda’s mother, Jacque Vaught, confirmed during an interview she had on a documentary about her daughter’s death that her father was left broken-hearted after her demise and he ultimately drank himself to death.
All Girls Involved In The Murder Have Since Been Freed
Having served more than 26 years behind bars, Melinda Loveless finally regained her freedom in 2019. By the time she was released from the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis, she was already 43 years old. Following her freedom as the chief mastermind of the heinous crime, she is expected to serve parole in Jefferson County, Kentucky.
In 2007 when Loveless tried to be released early, Jacque Vaught who described her as simply evil, fought hard to ensure she was not released.
Toni Lawrence was the first person to be released from prison among others convicted for the murder of Shanda Sharer. She regained her freedom in December 2000 having served 8 of her 20 years term, while Hope Rippey was released in December 2006.
On her part, Mary Laurine “Laurie” Tackett, 43, got out in 2018.