The Shanda Sharer Story

Many murder victims are innocent people and many crimes are vicious.  When you watch the true crime magazine type shows you often hear a police officer talking about a particular case being the worse crime they had investigated, or the worse crime scene ever.  I admit that I often roll my eyes to these statements because they seem overly dramatic for television purposes, or so it seems.  There are few cases in which if I were to hear an officer state that I would understand why.... the Sylvia Likens case was one.... the Shanda Sharer case is another.  

In a sense the two cases have many similarities.  Both girls were teenagers.  Sylvia was 16 when she was tortured and murdered in 1965... Shanda was 12 when she was tortured and burned alive in 1992.  Both girls were murdered in Indiana.  Both cases involved multiple people and sadly they both involved other teenagers.

Shanda lived in a small southwestern Indiana town, New Albany, with her mother and sister.  Her parents, Steve and Jacqueline, were divorced when she was young.  They moved to New Albany in June of 1991.  Less than eight months later she would die a vicious death.

Four teenage girls were ultimately convicted of her murder.... Melinda Loveless, Laurie Tackett, Hope Rippey, and Toni Lawrence.  

While the circumstances of the crime was gruesome, I have always felt it was made more sensational through the media because they seemed to focus in on a connection to homosexuality.  It was discovered that Melinda Loveless was the "ring leader" to Shanda's murder and that the motive was likely connected to another teenage girl, Amanda Heavrin.  

Melinda and Amanda had been in a relationship in late 1990 and into 1991.  It apparently has never fully been determined how it ended, or even if it fully ended at all.  Amanda and Shanda later met and became friends.  There has been much speculation as to whether they were platonic friends or if they too had a relationship.  I am on the fence with this.  From my understanding Shanda's family and supporters do not believe there was one but blames Amanda for implying to Melinda that there may have been which infuriated Melinda.  I personally believe that even if there was a more than friends issue there, and while young people often make more of things than really are, at 12 years old I just don't see a lot of substance there.  While I completely feel for Shanda's family and my heart aches for them in their grief, I also have to wonder if they did not know more than they admit.  Apparently they did not like the relationship between Amanda and Shanda as supposedly this is why just a few months into the school year she transferred to another school.  Is it a coincidence that it was a Catholic school?  I cannot say.  However, for me, aside from the idea that it was the motive it is a non-issue.  Shanda's sexual preference, and really at 12 how would she even know, may have been a supposed reason... but in no way shape or form should it be used as an excuse for what was done to her.


One of the more interesting things about this case or should we say unbelievable things is that of the four girls involved Melinda was the only one who had ever met Shanda prior to her murder.  Laurie knew of the situation and Melinda's plan to supposedly scare and threaten Shanda but neither Hope, or Toni had even met Melinda until January 10, 1992, the night before Shanda's murder.  According to the other girls Melinda told them that she did not like Shanda because she had "stolen" her girlfriend.


They drove to Shanda's father's house where she was visiting and Laurie and Hope told Shanda they were friends of Amanda's and asked her to go with them.  Shanda told them she couldn't leave because her dad was awake, but to come back at midnight.  When they returned, again Laurie and Hope went back up to the house while Melinda hid under a blanket in the car.  She knew Shanda would not go if she saw her because they had had altercations prior and Melinda had previously threatened Shanda.  It has been speculated that it was on the ride back to Shanda's house that Melinda expressed her desire to not just scare Shanda but to kill her.  If this was the case the other three girls obviously had the opportunity to get out of the situation but apparently chose not to.


When Shanda entered the car Melinda came out from under the blanket, putting a knife to Shanda's throat and the group drove to an abandoned area that was a popular teenage hang out.  Once there they tied up Shanda's arms and legs but chose to leave the area when they saw headlights of cars and feared they would be caught.  Shanda was put in the trunk of the car while the girls drove to, after getting lost, to a different location.  Eventually they stopped at an isolated dumping area.  Toni and Hope have claimed to initially stay in the car while Laurie and Melinda took Shanda out of the car, began beating her and attempted to cut her throat but the knife was too dull.  Supposedly, Hope did get out of the car and at some point helped hold Shanda down as Laurie and Melinda repeatedly stabbed her.  Believing that Shanda was now dead the girls put her  back into the trunk of the car they were driving.  They all went to Laurie's home to clean up and all but hang out.  At some point while there they could hear Shanda screaming from the trunk.  Laurie went back out and stabbed her several more times.  After a few hours of being at the house, Laurie and Melinda decide to go for a drive.  While driving they once again heard Shanda alive in the trunk.  Laurie went back, opened the trunk and using a tire iron beat Shanda until she was silent.  Once again they returned to Laurie's home and cleaned up.  When Laurie's mother was awoken by the girls being loud Laurie told her she would take the girls home.  Instead they drove to an area close to Laurie's house.  They opened the trunk to look at Shanda and it's alleged at this point Hope sprayed Shanda with Windex cleaner and taunted her.  The girls then drove to a gas station where they got a 2-liter of Pepsi, emptied it and filled it with gasoline.  They drove down a gravel road and placed Shanda, still alive in a field.  Hope poured gasoline on Shanda and the girls set her on fire.  They left the area but returnee s few minutes later to add more gasoline.  


After this the girls went to breakfast at a McDonald's.  Allegedly Toni was so scared she called and told a friend what had happened.  Laurie and Melinda later bragged about it to several people, including Amanda Heavrin.  She has stated she did not believe the story until Laurie showed them the trunk of the vehicle and saw blood inside.

That morning Shanda's father discovered she was not home.  He called friends and neighbors looking for her.  He had no idea that two hunters had reported to the police a suspicious finding on the side of a gravel road.  Around 1:30 in the afternoon Steve Sharer contacted his ex-wife and together they filed a missing person's report.  That night Toni Lawrence went to the police station with her parents and reported what had happened.  Dots were connected and through dental records Shanda's body was identified.  All four girls were arrested and charged as adults.



All four girls were offered and took plea deals. Laurie and Melinda were sentenced to 60 years.  Toni was sentenced to 20 years and was released in 2000.  Hope was also sentenced to 60 years, with 10 years suspended and 10 years of probation.  She was released in 2006. Melinda has continually attempted to have her sentence reduced to no avail.


During issues revolving around Melinda's sentencing it was revealed that her father had sexually molested her.  Her father, Larry was charged with several counts.  He spent two years in jail until most of the counts were dropped for statue of limitation issues.  He was sentenced on the remaining charge as time served.  It should be noted he denies the charges (although there seems to be evidence to the contrary) and later tried to sue the county for his imprisonment. This sexual abuse has been used to allege or excuse Melinda's behavior in her crime.


Compared to other "sensational" cases Shanda's case has not been dramatized as often.  There were a few books written early on.  Much of this is likely partly due to the fact there were no trials in case but also because Shanda's family did not approve of many things, including writes to the story.  A few television shows basing a fictional episode on the case and a play was published.  Shanda's father died in 2005 of cancer and since that time her mother has been a bit more vocal in her stance.  She has stated that Steve Sharer may have technically died of cancer that he died of a broken heart and all but "drank himself to death" after the murder.  


The Shanda Sharer Scholarship Fund was established in 2009.  Two scholarships are given a year and a plaque or document is given to tell Shanda's story.  In 2011 Shanda's mother and sister appeared on the Dr. Phil show in which Hope Rippey was also a guest. 


At the time of this crime I was only a few years out of high school and a young mother.  While I did not live in the town this occurred I had driven through there many times over the years going from our home in Indianapolis to my grandmother's home in southern Indiana.  This is one of those cases that was so gruesome that it stays with you and as you grow and age and raise your own family you begin to identify and sympathize more and more with Shanda's parents. I often fear that the fact that the homosexual aspect of this was so sensationalized takes away from the true crime of this and really plays no part in this.  Melinda could have easily planned and had help carrying out this murder over a boy, just as much as she did for a girl.  When people like Melinda Loveless and her followers are bred none of our children... male and female are safe. I can only imagine the pain associated with losing a child, to lose a child this way is unfathomable.  I fear it would not have taken me 13 years to die as it did Steve Sharer.  Bless her mother for respecting his grief when it was needed but speaking out later.

While in my opinion the evil person in the Sylvia Likens case was an adult that controlled, pushed and manipulated many of the children involved, in this case it was Melinda... a 17 year old who had three others, ranging from 15-18 in her control and they followed. It is also another case in which this crime not only will follow these girls forever, to which it should, it will follow any and all relatives, close and distant (especially if they share a surname) too.  The senselessness and horrific circumstances of this case is the true shame.  It is not the abuse Melinda supposedly suffered; it's not the peer pressure the others fell for; it's not the supposed relationship between Shanda and Amanda.  It is that an innocent 12 year old girl was beaten, stabbed any ultimately burned alive because someone thought she needed to learn a lesson.

EDITED TO UPDATE:


On May 10, 2012 an Indianapolis new station had a segment dedicated to this story, 20 years after the murder.  Melinda Loveless gave her first interview but the story was more about the "unlikely" connection between Melinda and Shanda's mother, "Jackie."  Melinda is now said to be one of the most respected dog trainers in the prison, or area.  She trains dogs for the disabled and is highly respected in this field.  Jackie was shown a video of Melinda working with the dogs and was asked how she would feel about donating a dog in Shanda's name and allowing Melinda to train it.  She did this and plans to do it every year.  She said she expects that Melinda will train more.


It should be clear that Jackie has not forgiven Melinda, has no desire to talk to her, reach out to her.. none of that.  She has said that she sees something different in her eyes than she saw 20 years ago but she wants Melinda, and Laurie who is still in prison, to simply serve their sentences... that is her promise to Shanda.

Comments

  1. Have you heard of the case about a girl named Laurie Show. If so, can you put that story on this site. That was the first movie based on the true murder of a teenage girl who was horrifically murdered that I have seen; so far.

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  2. Yes, I know the story of Missy Avila (the victim) and in fact I have a "draft" started of that story already. I haven't worked much on this lately but will try to in the near future.

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    Replies
    1. Missy Avila was not laurie show's murder. Different case. Laurie show was murdered by Lisa Michelle Lambert.

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  3. I just watched this on Dr. Phil. Hope Should have stayed in prison.
    What they did to that poor little girl is sick.
    I couldn't even imagine how her mother feels.
    May those 4 girls rot in hell.

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  4. This story is so sad I watched the Dr. Phil story on this. Those girls are nothing but evil nothing justifies killing someone over a lover this is disgusting. I don't know what I'd do if I had a daughter and she was murdered like this. I wish that Hope would have stayed in prison. I don't believe that she was just "following" the others she had four or five hours where she had the chance to tell someone and that girl could be alive today, but she didn't do anything.

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  5. This horror is marked by conflict.
    Dr. Chris Rasmussen said,"I think Isaac likes conflict."
    That above quote was said of Isaac Daniel Wolf.
    People can write to Isaac at: Attn: Isaac Daniel Wolf:
    Care of Georgetown Christian Church,
    9420 State Road 64,
    Georgetown, Indiana 47122.

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  6. I REALL FEEL SORRY FOR SHANDA MOTHER MELINDA HAS HER FOOLED I KNOW SOMEONE THAT WAS IN PRISON WITH MELINDA AND SHES VERY MEAN AND HATHFULL AND RUDE TO EVERY ONE. AND SHE PLAYS WITH PEOPLE'S EMOTIONS ALL 4 OF THOSE GIRLS HOULD HAVE BEEN PUT TO DEATH BECAUSE OF HOW THEY KILLED SHANDA. THAT LITTLE GIRL DIED AND THESE BTCHES ARE STILL LIVING TELL ME HOW FAIR THAT IS. AND THEY WANT TO SAY ALL THOSE GIRLS HAD ABUSE IN THERE LIFE SO WHAT THERE MORE PEOPLE OUT THERE WITH ABUSE AND THEY DONT KILL PEOPLE. TELL ME HOW FAIR THAT IS

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    Replies
    1. Wow! Longest sentence ever? Go take an English class and then try posting again. Maybe then someone can decipher what you are talking about. Lose the CAPS too please.

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  7. Excuse me, what they did to Shanda was horrible, and I feel sorry for the family, but there is not such thing as a sexual preference, and there should be no confusion about that. Females should be with males, and Males with Females. I don't care what anyone says, being Bisexual or Homosexual is confusion, it is un-natural, it's a sin, and it's perversion. People who are Gay/Bisexual tend to have a spirit of rage to go along with that filthy spirit, and it comes out sometimes. Anyone can be a murderer, but I just thought I would bring up this point. That spirit of rage, and perversion are both evil spirits that tricked all of those girls really well.

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    1. I do not agree with this and it seems to me that you are a hateful evil spirit, I myself am a VERY PROUD LESBIAN, I am very much so in love with my girl friend and I think what those four girls did to that baby is PLAIN SICK, What they did has to do with the evil that lies in them alone. Being a Lesbian/Bisexual/Gay had and has nothing to do with them being evil and committing such a terrible, sickening act. I would never, and could never even imagine it in my mind let alone commit such a hideous act on so much as a fly. So maybe you should reassess you're thinking cause I find you're evil thought process to be offensive. May god bless your heart and allow it to be more open and loving, may god have mercy on the souls of those 4 evil girls and I hope Shandas family has found some peace and I hope Shandas beautiful little soul is resting in Peace.

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  8. I am just sick over this. If my typing is off plz forgive me. The gay thing is the issue here. It was done over jealousy . plain n simple. The bible i follow says its sn anominition
    The the word .each of us do as we chose. Right ir wrong. Each of us are ginna stand befire a piwerful God. I hope erall choose to be in right standing then. There are some peopke should burn in hell. But i try not to judge any one. They choose to go to hell if they dont obey Gids word. I feel so sorry for shands family and i pray that they can be blessed with some kind of peace and love for each other. Hope i expressed this ok ty

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  9. This story and others like it rip my heart from my chest. As human beings we try to find a rationality to things. We want to blame sexual preferences, family abuse, sexual abuse and all of the things that we know as bad and evil. However, the true villan(s) here are the people who chose to commit this horrible crime. Life is very hard and some people just don't accept hard, they want easy. The easiest way to keep from loosing the one you love (or think you love) is to remove the competition. No one can make this case make sense. No one that does not have these same sanity issues can understand it. I am not saying any of these girls were insane, so please don't interpret that into the phrase. I'm just saying that well grounded mentally stable people would never consider such an act. Children that are allowed to just grow up, never being taught the basic essentials needed to survive this life, are the ones we read about in the papers and on the news. And...sometimes even those who have been given all the necessary components to have a good life have this faulty mental process. There is no understanding of this type of action, it just is. It is horrible and I am a true believer that rehabilitation of these people is a waste of time and money. They should all have been put to death. Excuses did not bring this baby back so they should not still be here walking this earth. I pray that God will truly bless Shanda's mother with peace and I pray that, since he is the only one who can change the girls, he will enact his will.

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