‘’Surprise! I bet you didn’t expect me here, you bitch.’’
Murder of Shanda Sharer
Top: Melinda Loveless; Laurie Tackett
Bottom: Hope Rippey; Toni Lawrence
On the night of January 10, 1992, 16-year-old Melinda Loveless concocted a plan to kidnap and kill her 12-year-old rival Shanda Sharer. Melinda Loveless had been in a lesbian relationship with 15-year-old Amanda Heavrin for two years until Shanda came into the picture and Amanda began focusing her attention on her and away from Melinda. Melinda had threatened Shanda on multiple occasions and told friends everyday how much she wanted her rival dead.
Melinda enlisted the help of three other teenage girls to join the kidnapping and killing of Shanda Sharer: Laurie Tackett (17), Hope Rippey (15), andToni Lawrence (15), who resided in Madison, Indiana. Laurie Tackett, who Melinda specifically recruited knowing she had a need to be violent, was very aware of what Melinda had in store for that night. She informed Hope and Toni that they were going to kill a little girl, but neither girl took her seriously. Laurie Tackett picked Hope and Toni up and made the long drive to New Albany, Indiana, where Melinda resided. They lounged around in her bedroom, trying on Melinda’s clothes until Melinda drew a butcher knife from her purse. ”This is the knife I’m going to use to scare Shanda,” she said.
Melinda began discussing her hatred for Shanda and how much she wanted her dead for stealing her girlfriend, though admitted that she was sexy, as much as she hated her. Toni and Hope sat in silence, shocked. They did not know Shanda, and neither did Laurie. Knowing that Shanda was spending the weekend at her father’s house in nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana, Melinda called her house multiple times but to no avail. The girls then piled into Laurie’s car and stopped a few blocks away from Shanda’s fathers house. Melinda and Laurie ordered Toni and Hope to go to the door and tell Shanda that they were friends of Amanda’s and Amanda was waiting for her at a location called the Witch’s Castle, a place familiar to Laurie. As Toni and Hope left, Melinda hid herself on the floorboard, clutching the knife, and Laurie covered her with a blanket. Toni and Hope knocked on the door and introduced themselves as friends of Amanda when Shanda answered. They told her Amanda was waiting for her at the Witch’s Castle and urgently needed to see Shanda. Shanda, who was just heading to a party, told them to return at around midnight. By then, she told them, her father would be asleep.
Melinda was furious when Hope and Toni returned to the car without Shanda, but they assured her that they could stop by later and pick her up. Afterward, the girls attended a punk rock concert and spent a couple hours there. Melinda called Amanda and, for the last time, told her that she was going to kill Shanda. The girls drove back to Shanda’s house and this time successfully lured her into the car, where Melinda lay hidden in the back. As Hope drove away, she began asking questions about her relationship with Amanda to trigger Melinda off and it worked; Melinda leaped out of her hiding place and pressed the knife against Shanda’s throat. ”Surprise!” Melinda shouted, ”I bet you didn’t expect me here, you bitch.” Shanda began sobbing and pleaded for her to let her go, promising to leave Amanda alone.
When they arrived at the Witch’s Castle, a ruined stone house located on an isolated hill overlooking the Ohio River, Melinda and Laurie bound Shanda’s hands and feet with rope and the girls began taunting her and stealing her jewelry. Laurie took a cherished sweater of hers, lit it on fire, and told Shanda, ”You’re next.” Fearing that bypassing cars would spot the fire and see what’s going on, Laurie and the girls went back in the car and drove all the way to Madison, Indiana, stopping in a densely forested area where Melinda forced Shanda to strip herself naked and began beating her with her fists, repeatedly cramming her knee into her mouth, causing her to bleed. Melinda attempted to slit her throat, but the knife was too dull. At some point during the beating, Hope got out of the car to assist them in holding Shanda down. Laurie and Melinda took turns stabbing Shanda in the chest and eventually strangled her with a rope, sending her into a state of unconsciousness.
The girls tossed Shanda into the trunk and drove to Laurie’s house to wash themselves off. Laurie fixed the girls some soft drinks. When they heard Shanda screaming and banging around in the trunk, Laurie grabbed a paring knife, assured the girls she’ll handle it, and went outside where she opened the trunk and stabbed Shanda in the head. Laurie returned to clean herself up and told the girls their futures with ”rune stones” just to calm them down.
At about 2:30 AM, Hope and Toni decided to hang back as Melinda and Laurie went ”country cruising”, driving to the nearby town of Canaan. Every time they heard screaming and thumping sounds from the trunk, Laurie would stop the car and beat Shanda into silence with a tire iron. Shanda would call out Melinda’s name in a gurgled voice and the last word she could muster was ”mommy” until Laurie wacked her with the tire iron again. The girls debated where to dump off Shanda, considering the limited options they had such as tossing her in a lake and running her over with the car. Sometime during the ride, it was decided that they were going to burn her.
Melinda and Laurie returned to the house at dawn and lead Hope and Toni to the car to show them the mangled condition that Shanda was now in. Toni, refusing to take a look, went inside the car while Laurie opened up the trunk. Hope recalled, ”Not one inch of her wasn’t covered in blood.” Next, Hope took a Windex bottle and sprayed it all over Shanda’s wounds. As Shanda screamed and wriggled in pain, Hope taunted, ”You’re not looking so hot now, huh?”
The girls headed to a gas station where they purchased a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi, dumped it out, and refilled it with gasoline. Hope informed them of a secluded location called ”Lemon Road” where they could burn Shanda. Once they reached the gravel road, Toni, shaken up, stayed in the car while Hope and Laurie opened up the trunk, wrapped Shanda’s body up in a blanket, and laid her out on the side of the road. Laurie ordered Melinda to pour the gasoline over Shanda’s body, but she shied away, so she pushed it into Hope’s hands. Hope doused Shanda’s body with the gasoline and Laurie lit a match. Shanda’s body was up in flames within a millisecond.
All three girls piled into the car where Toni awaited and sped off, only it wasn’t too long before Melinda looked back and demanded that go back because Shanda wasn’t burning enough. Laurie spun the car around and pulled up beside Shanda’s burning body. Melinda got out of the car alone and stood over Shanda, staring at her severely charred condition for a few moments. Melinda later recounted in court, ”She was burned to a crisp. You couldn’t recognize her. I mean, she was totally crisp black. I was sick…I’m sick.” Melinda then poured the rest of the gasoline on her and quickly climbed back into the car. Melinda laughed about how Shanda’s tongue was darting in and out of her mouth and praised her death, relieved to have her rival out of her and Amanda’s lives.
After burning Shanda alive, the girls stopped at a local McDonald’s for breakfast where they joked that Shanda looked like the sausages. Toni, horrified, phoned her friend and confessed that the other girls had murdered someone. After breakfast, Melinda and Laurie dropped Hope and Toni home before heading back to Melinda’s place in New Albany.
A couple hours after Shanda’s death, two brothers from Canaan, Indiana, were on there way to go hunting when they discovered a peculiar body burnt alive on the side of the gravel road. They initially suspected someone had burned a mannequin as a prank, but the closer they drew, the higher their fears rose. The figure was nude except for a pair of ripped blue panties. It lay on its back, its head pointed toward the road, and was charred black from waist to head. Its pale white legs were spread open and bent at the knees, and both arms were stiffly raised toward the sky with clenched fists. The two hunters were unsettled by whether it was a dead body but proceeded to summon police.
Melinda phoned a friend and confessed to murdering Shanda and afterward had Amanda Heavrin paged at Riverfalls Mall, arranging to pick her up. Upon meeting with Amanda, a tearful Melinda immediately told her everything that happened, explaining that she only intended to beat Shanda up but then Laurie went crazy and killed her. Amanda comforted the hysterical Melinda, unsure of whether this was merely a prank or not. Laurie, to prove to Amanda that they were telling the truth, showed Amanda the bloody trunk which contained one of Shanda’s bloody socks. Unlike Melinda, Laurie laughed as she walked Amanda through all the events that took place that night.
Melinda eventually dropped Amanda off at her house and made her promise not to tell anyone. The two shared one last kiss before Melinda then headed back to Laurie’s car. Meanwhile, Toni and Hope confessed to their parents and Toni’s parents immediately took her to the police station where Toni gave the names of the girls involved. The police enforcement pieced together the murder in a matter of hours. Melinda and Laurie were arrested later that night and taken into custody.
All four girls were tried as adults. To avoid the death penalty, all four girls accepted plea bargains. Laurie and Melinda were sentenced to sixty years in the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. With maximum time reduced for good behavior, they could be released in 2020. Toni was sentenced to twenty years in prison, and with time reduced for good behavior, she was released in 2000. Hope was sentenced to 60 years, with ten suspended for mitigating circumstances, and ten years of medium supervision probation. With time reduced for good behavior, Hope was released in 2006.