A Student’s Life Brutally Taken by Four Teenaged Girls

Shanda Sharer was an ordinary but beautiful young girl from Indiana who unfortunately didn’t make it past her 12th birthday. Why? Because a group of older teenaged girls decided that they could take Shanda’s life into their own hands and do as they please. Don’t worry, these girls got what was coming for them. Still, their punishments would never bring Shanda back to her loving family.

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When it comes to brutal and inexplainable cases like these, we have to wonder: why on earth would someone want to abduct, torture, and kill an innocent 12-year-old student? What’s even more baffling is the motive these teenagers had.

This is the upsetting, tragic, and unforgettable story of Shanda Sharer and the girls who took her life.

Shanda Sharer Was a Bubbly 12-Year-Old Girl

Back in 1991, Shanda Sharer was a bubbly 12-year-old girl. Her family was from Kentucky, but after her parents divorced, her mother remarried and moved the family to Louisville. During fifth and sixth grade, Shanda was on the cheerleading, volleyball, and softball teams at her school. Then her mother divorced again, and it was time to relocate once more, this time to New Albany, Indiana.

A portrait of Shanda Sharer.

Source: Tumblr

In June 1991, around her 12th birthday, Shanda and her mom moved to New Albany so that she could see her dad more often. There was a lot of moving around and relocating, but at least Shanda had a close relationship with both her parents, as well as her stepmom Sharon.

A School Dance Started a Chain of Events

Shanda was the kind of girl most kids wanted to be friends with – she was lively, outgoing, and lots of fun. She was also smart and a good student. A normal girl in seventh grade, Shanda did what other girls her age did: hang out with friends and have fun at school dances. But there was one dance that happened to set in motion a chain of events that unfortunately brought an end to Shanda’s life in a gruesome way.

The school hallway.

Photo by Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Early on in the school year, Shanda got into a fight with a 14-year-old girl named Amanda Heavrin. The two found themselves in detention together, where they managed to resolve their issues and become friends.

A Friendship That Became Something More

Shanda’s mother, Jackie, wasn’t so pleased with her daughter’s new friendship with Amanda. It’s understandable that she was unsettled by it, considering Shanda’s grades started slipping, and she started getting into trouble. It was all very uncharacteristic of her. The girls’ friendship soon developed into something more, and the pair began exchanging love letters.

A picture of Amanda.

Source: Tumblr

In October, the school dance took place. This was where the girls encountered Amanda’s ex-girlfriend, 16-year-old Melinda Loveless. She was clearly not over her ex because the sight of Amanda and Shanda together made Melinda’s blood boil. During the dance, Melinda tried to start a fight with Shanda, but Amanda stopped her.

Her Mother Discovered the Love Letters

In the weeks following the dance, Melinda was threatening Shanda in public. She wrote letters to Amanda, saying she wanted Shanda dead. As for Shanda’s and Amanda’s love letters, Jackie eventually discovered her daughter’s notes and was shocked to see how sexually explicit they were.

Written love messages from Shanda sent to Amanda / A portrait of Shanda.

Source: Imgur

Jackie and Stephen decided the right move would be to split Shanda and Amanda up, and the way they went about it was transferring Shanda to a different school. By the end of November, Shanda was attending Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School. But the school transfer didn’t cut the girls’ connection. Amanda kept writing letters to Shanda and calling her at home.

This Wasn’t Just Any Jealous Lovers’ Quarrel

Shanda wasn’t as responsive as Amanda would have liked, though, as she was distracted with her new school. Sadly, this is the point where the story takes a dark turn. That unsettling incident at the dance was just the tip of the iceberg.

A sharp knife at night.

Source: YouTube

What then happened to Shanda is something that no one should ever experience. Period. What seemed to be just a jealous lovers’ quarrel spiraled into something sinister and resulted in an act of evil that would forever change the lives of all those involved.

The Abduction of Shanda Sharer

On the night of June 10, 1992, four teenage girls showed up at Shanda’s home. Melinda Loveless, Laurie Tackett, Hope Rippey, and Toni Lawrence. The girls had a plan, and it began with Hope and Toni going to the front door to lure Shanda outside. They told her that her girlfriend Amanda wanted to meet up with her.

Four mugshots of Melinda, Laurie, Hope, and Toni.

Source: Flickr

Shanda told them that she couldn’t leave the house at that moment but that they should come back once her dad and stepmom were asleep. She had no idea that Melinda – Amanda’s angry, jealous ex-girlfriend was waiting in the car, hungry for revenge.

They Lured Her in and Drove to the Witch’s Castle

The four girls did what Shanda invited them to do: they came back at night. At around 12:30 a.m., Laurie and Hope went to the door to get Shanda. Melina and Toni were waiting in the car, underneath a blanket, holding a knife.

An exterior view of the Witch’s Castle.

Source: Flickr

Once Shanda got into the car, Melinda popped out from under the cover and threatened the young pre-teen with the knife. The girls then drove to Witch’s Castle in Utica, where they tortured Shanda by first binding her legs and arms. They removed her jewelry and threatened to cut off all her hair before lighting a fire.

Torture in the Woods

Then, they took Shanda and left the scene, worried that they had drawn attention to themselves. They drove around the neighborhood for a while (later saying they got lost) and finally ended up in the woods behind Laurie’s house.

A picture of Laurie during her arrest.

Photo by Bill Luster

Melinda and Laurie dragged Shanda into the woods while the other two girls stayed in the car. The pair forced Shanda to take off all her clothes, and they proceeded to beat her. Melinda tried to cut Shanda’s throat, but the knife she had with her wasn’t sharp enough. That’s when Hope joined the torture session.

The Original Mean Girls

Hope held Shanda down while Melinda and Laurie took turns stabbing Shanda. They went on to strangle the 12-year-old with a rope until she lost consciousness. At that point, they stuffed her body in the trunk of the car.

A close-up on the Witch’s Castle.

Source: Flickr

The deed was done, but there was so much more going on behind the scenes. These four deplorable girls who were responsible for the death of Shanda can also be called “the Original Mean Girls.” And to fully grasp this event, it might help to get a picture of what each of their lives was like before June 10, 1992….

Melinda Loveless: The Mastermind

Who is this Melinda Loveless (whose last name is quite fitting, by the way)? It will come as no surprise that Melinda came from an awful childhood. She was born and raised in New Albany, and her father, Larry Loveless, was a veteran from Vietnam who had trouble getting a steady job. Any money he made went directly towards motorcycles and guns. Yes, he was violent, abusive, and a drunk.

A picture of Melinda Loveless.

Source: Pinterest

As for Melinda’s mother, Marjorie, she had an “open relationship” with Larry. Apparently, he would let his friends “borrow” her for the night here and there. The two were very promiscuous and would pick up other couples at the bar (in other words, they were swingers).

A Witness and Victim to Her Father’s Habits

Larry would violently have his way with Marjorie while their three daughters were home, able to hear everything. He once beat her so badly that she was hospitalized. Eventually, Marjorie was so depressed that she tried to take her own life multiple times. Tragically, his wife wasn’t the only one he abused.

Melinda and her mom hold Melinda’s birthday cake.

Source: Tumblr

Melinda and her sisters were also subjected to their father’s disgusting habits. There are reports that Larry molested his daughters and nieces. Allegedly, Melinda shared a bed with him until she was 14 when her parents divorced, and Larry moved to Florida, leaving his family behind.

Forced to Be Held back Another Year

It’s no wonder that Melinda went on to struggle with depression and regularly get into fights, considering the utter brutality that she grew up with in her household. Still, no one would have expected her to take it to the level she did with Shanda.

Police officers escort Melinda to court.

Source: YouTube

Because of her troubles, her studies declined dramatically, and she was forced to repeat a year of school. Melinda was also open about being a lesbian, which was quite was rare for a teenaged girl to be in small-town Indiana in the early ‘90s.

Melinda was 16 when she committed Shanda’s murder.

Laurie Tackett: The Vampire Impersonator

Mary Laurine “Laurie” Tackett was from a strict, fundamentalist Christian home, in Madison, Indiana. Both her mother and father, who worked in a factory, were abusive parents and child services visited their home several times.

A picture of Laurie at home.

Source: Tumblr

Laurie tended to escape into fantasy, becoming obsessed with paranormal activity and vampirism. She grew increasingly rebellious after her 15th birthday, becoming fascinated with cults. She often tried to impress her friends by pretending to be possessed by “Deanna the Vampire.” Early in 1991, when she was 16, Laurie began to harm herself, landing her in the hospital on more than one occasion.

She Dropped Out of High School

She would get prescribed an anti-depressant and then get released. She was still self-harming, however, and landed in the hospital again, but this time, in the psychiatric ward. She was then diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She confessed that she had been experiencing hallucinations since she was a young girl.

A portrait of Laurie.

Source: YouTube

She was ultimately discharged, and by September 1991, she dropped out of high school. A month later, she moved to Louisville to live with friends. There she met Melinda, and the two became close friends. By the end of 1991, Laurie spent most of her time with Melinda in New Albany.

Home Was Not a Good Place to Be

Laurie rarely went home to Madison. After all, she hated being there. For one, Laurie claimed that her father had molested her as a child. And as for her mother, she allegedly tried to strangle Laurie one night after learning that her daughter was changing into jeans at school.

Two hands are holding a rosary.

Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket/Getty Images

Another time, her mother went to Hope Rippey’s house after hearing that the girls were playing with a Ouija board. She demanded that the game be burned and that the Rippey home be exorcised.

Laurie was 17 when she committed Shanda’s murder.

Hope Rippey: Toni’s Friend From Childhood

Hope was also from Madison and became friends with Laurie, but her parents were a little more involved in her life. They divorced when she was about eight years old, only to be reunited three years later. They didn’t like that Hope was spending so much time with Laurie.

A video stills from Hope arriving at court.

Source: YouTube

Hope was also close with Toni (the fourth girl in the killer quartet) and had been since they were very young. Like Laurie, Hope was a self-harmer. She, Laurie and Melinda would spend too much time together, which we now see was a disaster waiting to happen. Like the other two, Hope was also attracted to women.

Hope was 15 when she committed Shanda’s murder.

Toni Lawrence: The Odd One Out

Toni was born and raised in Madison. She was good friends with Hope, but didn’t know either Laurie or Melinda very well. Her father was a boilermaker, and some reports claim that she was abused by a relative at the age of nine. Toni was also raped at the age of 14 by a teenaged boy, and all the police did was issue an order for him to stay away from her.

Police officers escort Toni to court.

Source: Facebook

Toni started going to counseling after the assault but never followed through. She became a promiscuous teenager, started to self-harm like the other girls, and even attempted suicide in eighth grade.

Toni was 15 when she got involved in Shanda’s murder.

The Events Leading Up to the Murder

On the evening of June 10th, before the murder, Laurie, Hope and Toni piled into Laurie’s car. Their intention was to go to a rock concert, and it was the first time Toni had ever met Laurie or Melinda. Laurie didn’t look like the typical ‘90s teenage girl – she had striking, white-blonde hair and a boyish haircut.

A memorial for Shanda Sharer.

Source: Wikipedia

She wore black from head to toe, giving off a sinister and unapproachable façade. Toni immediately got a bad vibe from Laurie. In the early moments of that evening, Laurie asked Hope, “Did you tell her yet?” Hope replied, “Tell her what?”

“We’re Going to Kill a Girl Tonight”

Laurie’s response was chilling: “We’re going to kill a girl tonight.” Toni thought it was some twisted joke and didn’t know what to think. Either way, they were heading to the concert, driving to New Albany to pick up Melinda. Hope didn’t really know Melinda, and Toni had never met her.

A portrait of Shanda Sharer.

Source: YouTube

Melinda was excited to see the girls when they got to her place. Carrying a large kitchen knife with her, she got into the car and told her new friends, Hope and Toni, that she wanted to “scare” this girl Shanda.

The Girls Were Just Going Along for the Ride

Why did she want to scare her? Because she was trying to “be like her” and “stole” her girlfriend. Of the four girls, Melinda was the only one who had ever met Shanda before. The other three were literally going along for the ride.

A view of Shanda’s house.

Source: YouTube

The quartet arrived at Shanda’s house around 8 p.m., which is when Melinda hid on the floor of the car. She knew that Shanda would refuse to come along if she saw Melinda. While Shanda had never met Hope or Toni before, she was interested in seeing Amanda.

Toni Was Weirded Out by Melinda’s Behavior

Since Shanda told them to come back at night, the girls continued on to the concert. After which, they went back to Shanda’s house, and on the way there, Melinda expressed her excitement over her plan to kill Shanda. But she also said that she really just wanted to scare her.

A picture of Melinda walking the street.

Source: Pinterest

Hope and Toni, who only just got to know Melinda, didn’t actually believe that she planned to kill the girl. Still, Toni, in particular, was becoming increasingly concerned. It’s the reason she refused to go to the door with Hope the second time around to lure Shanda to the car.

Shanda Begged Melinda Not to Hurt Her

Hope then came to the car with Shanda, with Hope telling her that Amanda was waiting for them at the Witch’s Castle in Utica. Suddenly, Melinda jumped up from the floor of the car, grabbed Shanda’s hair and put the knife to her throat.

A view of the Witch’s Castle at night.

Source: Flickr

Shanda screamed and begged Melinda not to hurt her. “Shut up, b***h!” Melinda yelled at her. She then started to question Shanda about her relationship with Amanda. They arrived at the Witch’s Castle, and Melinda and Laurie proceeded to tie Shanda up while telling her that the place was “full of dead people.”

They Covered Her With a Blanket

By this point, Shanda was terrified and begged to be taken home. Laurie then lit a T-shirt on fire with a lighter and taunted Shanda, telling her that soon she would be the one burning. It was then that the girls left the area, dragging Shanda with them.

A sweater and a rope as evidence of the crime.

Source: Facebook

They looked for an open gas station, so Shanda told them about the one near her house. They went there, but Laurie knew that Shanda wanted to either run out or call for help, so she covered her with a blanket.

It Takes Three

They drove around some more and ended up in the woods near Laurie’s house, which became the scene of the crime. While Laurie and Melinda beat and tortured Shanda, Hope and Toni stayed in the car. But Hope eventually got out to physically help the girls restrain Shanda.

A view of an open trunk in a car.

Photo by Perry Riddle/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Melinda and Laurie were the ones who strangled Shanda, and when they then put her in the trunk of the car, they told Toni and Hope that Shanda was dead. The thing is, she wasn’t dead yet. Laurie realized that Shanda was making noise, so she stabbed her until she was quiet.

Toni Couldn’t Look at Her

Melinda and Laurie then left Hope and Toni, and the girls kept driving on back roads with Shanda still in the trunk of the car. It’s unclear just how long they were driving for, but they ended up at Laurie’s house, picked up Hope and Toni again, and drove back to the woods.

Entering the forest.

Source: Flickr

Laurie and Melinda felt the need to show Hope and Toni what they had done to Shanda, but Toni refused to look. The other three looked, and then Hope sprayed Shanda with Windex, saying, “You’re not looking so hot now, are you?”

Shanda’s Final Moments

At a nearby gas station, Toni bought a bottle of Pepsi to drink, but Laurie grabbed it instead. She emptied it and filled it with gasoline. They then drove on a country road (Lemon Road), surrounded by fields. Shanda, who was somehow still alive, was wrapped in a blanket by Laurie and Hope.

A view at the crime scene in the Witch’s house.

Source: YouTube

They carried her into the fields, where Laurie poured the gas from the bottle and set the girl on fire. The four girls left and went to eat at McDonald’s. Toni, who was never comfortable with what was going on in the first place – yet went along with it all – was hysterical.

Amanda Didn’t Believe Her Ears

Toni used a payphone to call her friend and tell her about the murder. That’s when Melinda and Laurie decided that Toni needed to go home. They dropped off Toni and Hope for the final time, and Melinda called Amanda to tell her that Shanda was dead.

A mobile phone.

Photo by SSPL/Getty Images

Amanda didn’t believe her ex-girlfriend’s insane comments and just agreed to meet her later. And so, Laurie and Melinda went to get Amanda to bring her back to Melinda’s house. Once they went inside, Melinda broke down in tears. She told Amanda what happened that night.

Then She Saw the Bloody Trunk

Amanda still didn’t believe the absurdity that she was hearing – it couldn’t be real. But what her ears didn’t want to hear, her eyes were forced to accept. Melinda showed her the trunk of Laurie’s car, which was soaked with blood.

A portrait of Amanda in school.

Source: Pinterest

There were bloody handprints, long dark hairs, and one of Shanda’s socks. Could it be? That her jealous ex actually killed her current girlfriend? It was all just too much for her to handle. Amanda was absolutely horrified and demanded to be taken home.

The Investigation Begins

While the girls were eating a post-murder meal at McDonald’s that night, two brothers named Donn and Ralph Foley were out hunting for quail. They passed Jefferson Proving Ground, driving down a country road. They suddenly spotted a large object on the side of the road.

An exterior view of McDonald’s.

Photo by BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune/Getty Images

As they got closer to it, Donn figured it was a blow-up doll. But as soon as they pulled up next to the object, they realized it was a burned body. Donn, a veteran, was instantly taken back to his time in Vietnam.

Uncovering a Horrifying Sight

They went back home right away and called the police. The Foleys were told to go back to the location where the body was lying until the sheriff showed up. Deputy sheriff Randle Spry arrived at the scene, followed by Jefferson County Sherriff Buck Shippley.

A police officer arrives at the forest.

Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Detective Steve Henry and forensic expert Sergeant Curtis Wells showed up an hour later. What these men uncovered was a horrifying sight. Not only was the body burnt beyond recognition; Shanda’s body was also posed in a sexual position, leading them to believe that she was also sodomized.

Meanwhile, in the Sharer Household

Steve, Shanda’s father, woke up and noticed that his daughter wasn’t in her room. He didn’t think much of it, though and assumed she was sleeping in the basement’s family room. But then he saw that she wasn’t in the house at all, so he began to worry.

Shanda’s mother holds a picture of her daughter.

Source: Flickr

Steve called Shanda’s friends before calling his ex-wife, Jackie, to tell her that their daughter was missing. Jackie came over right away, and the two parents filed a missing person’s report. Jackie, Steve, and his wife Sharon then began searching for Shanda.

Toni Confessed It All

At around 8:30 p.m. on June 11th, the day after the murder, Toni and her father entered the police station. She was hysterical and told Detective Steve Henry everything – about the plan to go to a concert that turned into a murder she never wanted to be involved in.

Toni’s mugshot.

Source: Pinterest

She told Henry that she knew the girl’s name was Shanda and that she was 12 or 13 years old. While she didn’t remember exact times, she did remember locations, like the Witch’s Castle, the woods where Shanda was tortured, Laurie’s house, the gas station. She told them everything.

Making the Arrests

Henry contacted Sergeant Curtis Wells to see if a missing person’s report had been filed at Shanda’s address. The answer was affirmative: 12-year-old Shanda Sharer was indeed reported missing. The description of her in the missing person’s report also matched the body the Foley’s found earlier that day.

Melinda gets arrested.

Source: YouTube

Dental records then positively identified the body as Shanda’s. The next day, on January 12th, Laurie and Melinda were the first to be arrested. In the end, however, all four girls were charged as adults, including Toni, and despite them all being in their teens.

From 20 to 60 Years in Prison

All four girls accepted plea bargains to avoid the death penalty. Both Laurie and Melinda were sentenced to double-life sentences – 60 years – in Indiana Women’s Prison. Hope’s lawyers appealed her sentence in 2004, resulting in her time being reduced from 60 to 35 years.

The view from a wire mesh in prison.

Photo by Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Toni, who pled guilty to one charge of criminal confinement, was sentenced to a maximum of 20 years. It was during the trials and sentence hearings that the girls’ pasts were revealed, exposing their darkest of childhoods to the world.

Sending Larry Loveless to Jail

During Melinda’s sentencing, the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of her father came to light. A year later, in February 1993, he was charged with rape, sodomy and sexual battery. He then spent two years in jail, awaiting trial.

Melinda speaks during a televised interview after her release from prison.

Source: YouTube

The problem was that due to the statute of limitations (five years in Indiana) and the fact that these particular crimes occurred 25 years prior, the judge dropped all charges apart from one count of sexual battery, which Larry pleaded guilty to. He received a “time served” sentence and was released in June 1995.

Where Is Toni Lawrence Now?

Toni was released on parole on December 14, 2000, after having served nine years. She then remained on parole until the end of 2002. Toni now goes as Toni Parker and still lives in Indianapolis. She’s a mother of two now and has kept a low profile since her release from prison.

A smiling selfie of Toni Lawrence.

Source: Flickr

Toni has gone on record to say that she regrets not having done more to stop that night’s events. She wishes she had. She was simply too afraid of going against Melinda. She was only 15, after all.

Where Is Hope Rippey Now?

Hope was released on parole on April 28, 2006, after serving 14 years. She remained on parole until April 2011, after which she appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil alongside Shanda’s mother and stepsister Paije Dunham. During the show, as she broke down in tears, Hope took full responsibility for what she did and expressed her deep remorse for her role in the murder.

Hope cries during a televised interview with Dr. Phil.

Source: YouTube

She also claimed to have been coerced into the murder since she was a “weak person” at the time. Both Jackie and Paije denounced Hope on the show, with Paije calling her a “monster.”

Hope lives in the Indianapolis area and is married to a woman named Alicia Tyree.

Where Is Laurie Tackett Now?

On January 11, 2018, on the 26th anniversary of Shanda’s murder, Laurie was released from prison on parole after serving nearly 26 years. Although she was sentenced to 60 years behind bars, she served less than half of that.

Laurie visits Dr. Phil's television show.

Source: YouTube

Laurie has expressed remorse for the murder of Shanda and has chosen to stay out of the public eye since her release from prison. Not much is known about her personal life these days.

And last but not least…

Where Is Melinda Loveless Now?

Melinda was released from prison in 2019 after serving 27 years. The 46-year-old legally changed her name to Lindy Doris Monroe in 2020. While in prison, Melinda got involved in training service dogs.

Melinda speaks during an interview.

Source: Facebook

She became known for her training for the ICAN (Indiana Canine Assistance Dogs) program. Believe it or not, she’s often sought out for help with dogs that are more difficult to train. A burn victim by the name of Charlie Petrizzo, who breeds service dogs for ICAN, contacted Shanda’s mother about Melinda.

Mr. Sharer Never Got Past It

They watched footage of Melinda training a dog in prison, during which Jackie said, “Melinda was sincere. She was compassionate.” She continued: “I think the ICAN program allows her to have something in her life that she can show love back to and there’s never betrayal on either side.”

A picture of Shanda smiling next to her father.

Source: Facebook

In 2012, Jackie decided to donate a puppy, Angel, in 2012 in honor of Shanda for Melinda to train for ICAN. As for Steve Sharer, he was never able to get past the death of his daughter. His only escape was through the bottle, and it ultimately took his life. He died of alcohol abuse in 2005 at the age of 53.

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