Why Did Four Teenage Girls Torture And Burn Alive 12-year-old Shanda Sharer In 1992?
Shanda Sharer was once a popular and bubbly Hazelwood Middle Schoolgirl. By all accounts, her outgoing personality meant that it was easy for her to make new friends.
However, it was this outgoingness that started a terrifying chain of events one evening at a local school dance. It was at this 1991 dance where Shanda Sharer met up with a former classmate Amanda Heavrin and the chemistry between the two girls quickly sparked, and they soon became romantic.
Outside the dance, tempers started to brew as the couple was confronted by 16-year-old Melinda Loveless, who previously dated Heavrin and was now extremely jealous of this new relationship.
Over the next few weeks, Loveless threatened Sharer at school and even started sending notes to Heavrin claiming that she wanted her new partner dead.
Nobody realized just how far Melinda Loveless was willing to go, especially not to brutally murder Sharer. But Melinda Loveless came from an abusive home, where she would see her mother assaulted by her father most nights.
To protect her daughter, Sharer's mother transferred her to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School.
However, even moving her daughter would not protect her from the gruesome chain of events.
It was bitterly cold the night on January 10, 1992, and a teenage girl Melinda Loveless enlists three of her friends - Laurie Tackett, 17, Hope Rippey, 15, and Toni Lawrence - to help carry out one of the most senseless and brutal assaults and murders in Indiana history.
By most accounts, Melinda Loveless was the only girl of the four that knew Sharer was going to die that night, bringing along with her a sharp knife.
This night Sharer was spending the weekend with her father, and the girls drove to her house claiming that they wanted to take her to see her girlfriend Heavrin.
Sharer instructed the girls to come back after her parents went to sleep. They did, but Sharer had no idea that in the backseat Melinda Loveless was hidden under a blanket ready to surprise her with knife.
The meeting place Sharer thought they were going was the Witch's Castle, a local and isolated abandoned home that was a popular hangout amongst the local teens.
Tortured and assaulted for eight hours
The jealous lover and ringleader, Melinda Loveless, leaped from the back of the car and held the knife against Sharer's throat. At this point, Sharer must have known that there was never a plan to take her to see her girlfriend and that she was in for an awful night.
The foursome drove Sharer to a remote location, where everyone but Loveless imagined that she just wanted to scare the shit out of Shanda, but as it turns out, they were dead wrong.
For nearly eight hours, the girls sexually assaulted and tortured Shanda Sharer, except for Toni Lawrence which refused to participate in the heinous act.
At a remote trash dump in a densely overgrown area, Loveless and her gang stripped the clothes from Sharer's body, punched her repeatedly, sprayed window cleaner into her eyes.
Sharer was screaming, but since the girls were down a remote path, no-one could hear those screams for help.
The torture continued for hours before the girls tossed Sharer into the back of the car's trunk. They attempted to slit Sharer's throat, but the knife brought by Loveless was too dull, so instead, they repeatedly stabbed her in the chest. Believing Sharer is now dead they drove to Laurie Tackett's home to clean up and drink sodas. They had no idea that their victim was screaming inside the car's trunk.
From the house, Tackett and Loveless drive off together where they find another remote location and stab Sharer several more times before sodomizing her with a tire iron. They return to Tackett's house and joke to their friend Rippey about what they just did.
Now approaching dawn the foursome stop at a gas station and purchase a two-liter bottle of Pepsi, which they drink and immediately refill with gasoline.
The girls then drive to another remote location, where the body was eventually found by a local hunter Don Foley the next morning, and pull Sharer out of the trunk. Wrapped in a blanket and whimpering the word "mommy" in a defeated tone, the girls then drag Shanda Sharer to a clearing in the forest.
The girls pour gasoline from the now filled Pepsi bottle and watch her as she is burned alive.
The killers drive off but shortly come back to the body, where they believed she was completely burned up with no trace evidence. Upon seeing that she was not, they repeated the process of burning her body again.
Sausage biscuits at McDonalds
Besides the brutal murder of Shanda Sharer, one of the most disturbing facts of this case is that the girls ate breakfast at McDonald's immediately after the torturous ordeal and killing. The girls laughed as they were comparing their sausage breakfast with Shanda Sharer's charred body.
Later that afternoon, Loveless called her ex-girlfriend Heavrin to brag about what she and her friends did to Sharer. Heavrin did not believe that anyone could commit such an awful murder and played it off as a joke.
Around this time Lawrence (who refused to participate) and Rippey went to the Jefferson County Sheriff's office where they confessed to the murder. The next day, murderous four were all in handcuffs, and the investigation had begun.
The State of Indiana decided to try all of the girls involved in the murder as adults and all four accepted a plea bargain from the State to avoid the death penalty.
Lawrence and Rippey who were less involved in the torture, received 20 years and 50 years respectively, and both are now out of prison.
Tackett and Loveless both received a 60-year sentence and are still serving time till this day.
In one recorded interview, Tackett said, "I didn't know Shanda at all. I didn't go into that eventing knowing anything was going to happen, wanting anything to happen." Tackett then blames her role on "peer pressure" from Melinda Loveless.
Laurie Tackett also appeared on the Dr. Phil show to explain her role in the murder.
As previously stated, Melinda Loveless did have a rough childhood, being a victim of sexual abuse by her father, a Vietnam veteran. The father was later arrested for his abusive behavior and convicted.
The Indiana prison system is attempting to rehabilitate Loveless, enrolling her in a program called ICAN, or Indiana Canine Assistant Network where she trains puppies to become service dogs for the disabled.
The progress so inspired Shanda's mother so much that she has made that she donated a puppy named Angel for her to train.
I personally hope there can eventually be full forgiveness for this awful crime.