The murder of Shanda Sharer jolted everyone in 1992. A cheerful and loving Shanda was attending the Hazelwood Middle School in New Albany, Indiana.
In 1991, Shanda Sharer was a lively 12-year-old — an ordinary school-going girl who enjoyed going to school dances with good school friends. A heinous, torturous end to such a playful life was something nobody expected.
In 1991, immediately after her parent's divorce, Shanda Sharer moved to New Albany from Kentucky. Moving to New Albany was easier than anticipated as Shanda soon became friends with Amanda Heavrin. Amanda was more than just a friend to Shanda, and the relationship grew stronger in absolutely no time.
In October 1991, Heavrin and Sharer attended a school dance as a couple. Unaware of the history, Sharer was confronted by 16-year-old Melinda Loveless, Heavrin's ex-lover. Loveless was clear in stating her disagreement with the relationship between the two. The hatred was deep enough that Loveless threatened to kill Sharer.
Following this heated encounter, Shanda Sharer's mother transferred her to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School to protect her from any such forthcoming event.
The Abduction Of Shanda Sharer
The dispute didn't end there, and on January 10th, 1992, Loveless, along with three of her friends — Laurie Tackett (17), Hope Rippey (15), and Toni Lawrence (15), left to complete what she believed to be revenge.
The girls drove to Sharer and used the pretense of taking her to see Heavrin into tricking her into coming along. The five of them, including Sharer, left for Witch Castle, an abandoned property. Shanda Sharer, still unaware of Loveless's presence, hid under a blanket.
Vengeful Melinda soon crawled out and threatened to slash Sharer's throat if she didn't confess to stealing Loveless's ex-lover, Heavrin. Loveless convinced other girls to take Shanda Sharer to a confined location. Unaware of her cruel intentions, the three friends trusted her.
Torture And Murder
For over seven hours, Loveless and other girls tortured the life out of Shanda Sharer before murdering her. Shanda was first taken to a remote location, where Loveless and Tackett stripped off her clothes and brutally punched her, severely bruising her. It was reported that Loveless first hit Sharer's face with her knee until she bled profusely. Rippey and Lawrence opted out of the physical torture.
Following the brutal beating and thrashing of her clothless body, Loveless and Tackett attempted to slit her throat but failed because the knife was too blunt. The girls then satiated their rage by stabbing her multiple times in the chest and throttling her with a rope before dumping her assumed dead body into the car trunk.
The four girls then stayed back at Tackett's to clean up and grab drinks, only to realize that Sharer was, in fact, still alive. Upon learning this, Tackett stabbed Sharer many more times, followed by sodomizing the poor girl with a tire iron.
Finally, the following morning, the four girls stopped at the gas station and purchased a two-liter Pepsi bottle which they refilled with gasoline. After hours of brutal tortures and unimaginable sufferings, the girls wrapped the still alive Shanda Sharer into a blanket and poured gasoline on her, burning her alive.
The group drove off the scene, but this wasn't the end as Loveless returned to sprinkle some gasoline to ensure Sharer's death.
The Following Morning
Shanda Sharer's body was found by two hunters who reported the findings to the concerned authorities. The same day Loveless confessed the entire incident to Heavrin and forced them into keeping their mouths shut.
However, Rippey and Lawrence went directly to the Sheriff's Office and spilled the beans all at once. The girls were arrested and faced trials, but since they accepted plea bargains, they escaped death penalties which would have been their fate following such a gruesome murder.
The sentences differed depending upon their doings and cooperation with the police. Lawrence received 20 years but was released after nine years, Rippey received 50 years, shortened to 35, but was released after 14 years. Tackett and Loveless received a sentence of 60 years each.
Melinda Loveless Now
What still startles people is Melinda Loveless, the mastermind of the Shanda Sharer murder case. What could make a 16-year-old so filled with rage that even murdering a classmate couldn't waver it?
In a 2012 interview, Jacque Vaught, Shanda Sharer's mother, stated how Melinda's eyes were numb, and nothing was there reflecting her emptiness.
What further laid the foundations of her angry behavior patterns is that her father sexually abused Loveless. Prison walls changed the face of violence for Loveless as she engaged herself in a puppy training program. ICAN or Indiana Canine Assistant Network makes the inmates train the assistance dogs for disabled people.
One of the dog breeders was also a burn victim, much like Shanda Sharer. The breeder talked Vaught (above) into watching a video of a changed Melinda at the puppy program. Vaught was shocked beyond words upon seeing the drastic change in what seemed to be a new Melinda. Utterly moved by the transformation, Vaught donated a puppy named Angel for Loveless to train in prison.
Vaught stated in an interview how one should let good things come from the bad ones. Failing to do this only worsens things. She went on to say how Shanda, too, would have forgiven Loveless and wished for her mental peace.
Loveless, entirely moved by Vaught's forgiving nature, confessed:
"She helped me to heal, forgive and grow, whether she wanted that or not. She did a good thing. I would thank her. I couldn't thank her enough. Angel is in good hands. And I'm doing it for Shanda. And I'm doing it for her."
The perpetrators were brought to justice and sentenced to terms accordingly.
Shanda Sharer died a brutal death. The innocent soul did not deserve it.
The gruesome case has some disturbing details. All this left behind lists of speculations like why is gasoline even available so easily and many more.