Junior high can be a difficult time in a young girl’s life. Jealousy and drama run rampant in the halls and once someone becomes a target, other students can be relentless in their taunts and bullying. Teenage girls can be down right cruel to those they have tagged as an enemy and those of us who have made it out of our junior high years intact are probably glad we never have to go back. There are some of us, however, who never get the chance to make it out alive.
Shanda Sharer was only 12-years-old when her life was taken by the hands of other teenage girls. Girls who were ultimately jealous over a friendship forged between Sharer and the love interest of another girl. Tortured and humiliated for hours by girls who would later claim their mental illnesses are what drove them to the cold and callous murder of the young athlete, Shanda’s life was ended before it even had a chance to truly begin.
On the night of January 10, 1992, 16-year-old Melinda Loveless convinced three friends – Laurie Tackett(17), Toni Lawrence(15), and Hope Rippey(15) – to help her scare Shanda Sharer. Loveless believed that Sharer had stolen her girlfriend, Amanda Heavrin, and was upset with how much time Amanda wanted to spend with Shanda rather than her.
The girls all piled into Tackett’s car and drove to Shanda’s house, stopping at McDonald’s on the way in order to ask for directions. Once the girls arrived at Shanda’s home, two of the girls went to the door and told her they were on their way to meet up with Amanda Heavrin at the ruins of a stone home overlooking the Ohio River, nicknamed “The Witch’s Castle”. Shanda was reluctant to go with the girls at first, but agreed to sneak out once her parents were asleep.
Shanda didn’t know that Loveless had been waiting in the car, hiding under a blanket and holding a knife. The other girls interrogated Shanda on her relationship with Amanda in order to antagonize Loveless, who had still been hiding in the back seat. Loveless sprang out from under the blanket and held the knife to Shanda’s throat. Shanda was sobbing and scared by the time the four girls reached the Witch’s Castle.
Shanda was forced to enter into the Witch’s Castle where the other girls bound her hands and feet. One of the girls removed the rings she had been wearing and passed them out to the remaining girls, then danced to a tune played by Shanda’s Mickey Mouse watch she had been wearing. Tackett began telling Shanda how the room they were in was once a dungeon that had been filled with human bones and her’s would be soon added to the collection. Tacket and Lawrence then went back to the car to retrieve a smiley face sweatshirt Shanda had brought with her. The girls lit the sweatshirt on fire, but soon extinguished it, fearing that passing cars would see it and call the police.
The girls led Shanda back to the car. Shanda begged for the girls to take her home. Instead she was mocked and forced to take off her bra. The girls became lost and stopped at a gas station in order to get directions. Shanda was forced to hide under the blanket in the backseat while some of the other girls chatted to boys they knew, before they all climbed back in the car and drove to a patch of woods in Madison, IN, close to where Tackett’s home was located.
The girls turned down a logging road leading to a nearby garbage dump. Loveless and Tackett got out of the car and forced Shanda to strip naked. Loveless punched Shanda and slammed her face into her knee repeatedly, causing her mouth to be sliced open by her braces. Loveless then pulled out the knife she had been carrying and tried to slash Shanda’s throat, but found that the knife was too dull. Rippey got out of the car and helped hold down Shanda as Loveless and Tackett took turns stabbing her in the chest and strangled her with a rope until she became unconscious. They then picked up Shanda’s body and stuffed her into the trunk, assuming she was dead.
The girls all went back to Tackett’s house to clean up. As the girls were in the kitchen grabbing some drinks, they heard Shanda screaming from the trunk of the car. Tackett grabbed a paring knife from the kitchen and went out to the car and stabbed Shanda several more times. Tackett came back inside and washed the blood off of her. The girls hung out for a little longer, before Tackett and Loveless decided to go for a drive, while the other girls decided to stay behind.
As Tackett and Loveless were driving they began to hear gurgling noises coming from the trunk. They pulled the car over and looked in. Shanda sat up, but was unable to speak. Tackett beat Shanda with a tire iron until the noises stopped. Tackett and Loveless returned to Tackett’s home and told the other girls what had happened during their drive. The commotion awoke Tackett’s mother and she was forced to take the other girls home.
Instead, Tackett drove to a local gas station. One of the girls went inside and purchased a bottle of soda, which they emptied and filled with gasoline. Rippey directed Tackett to drive to a grassy field she knew of off of U.S. Route 421. Lawrence refused to participate as the other girls got out of the car. When Tackett opened the trunk, Rippey sprayed Shanda with windex and taunted “You’re not looking so hot now, are you?” The girls removed removed the rest of Shanda’s clothing and wrapped her in a blanket. Somehow Shanda was still struggling to hang on as the girls doused her in gasoline and lit her on fire. The girls then drove to McDonald’s for breakfast and joked how Shanda’s body had looked like the sausage patties.
Shanda’s father had noticed Shanda was missing early the next morning and reported her missing. After Tackett had dropped off Lawrence she told her mother and they went down to the police station to confess what had occurred with the girls and Shanda the prior evening and early morning of January 11. Loveless and Tackett were both arrested the following day based on Lawrence’s statement and the positive identification of Shanda Sharer’s body.
All four girls were tried as adults for, arguably, one of the most horrific cases Indiana had ever seen. Lawerence received a reduced sentence for her cooperation and was ordered to serve a maximum of 20 years for criminal confinement. Both Tackett and Loveless were sentenced to serve 60 years, but could be released for good behavior by 2020. Rippey had originally sentenced to serve 60 years, but had her sentenced later reduced to 35. All of the girls will be in their mid-40’s by the time they’re released.