According to Psychology Today, jealousy is “a complex emotion that encompasses feelings ranging from fear of abandonment to rage and humiliation.” It has been the cause of countless crimes including murder. In Episode 11, I talked about the horrific torture and murder of Stacey Hanna. This was caused by jealousy and rage due to a love triangle. The death of Shanda Sharer is very similar. It caused four teenage girls to target Shanda and murder the 12-year old girl cause of jealousy.
Shanda Sharer Meets Amanda Heavrin
Shanda Sharer was born on June 6, 1979 in Pineville, Kentucky to Steve Sharer and Jacqueline Vaught. Her parents would eventually divorce, and Shanda’s mother Jacque would move the family to New Albany, Indiana in June 1991. Shanda would start attending Hazelwood Middle School and was quickly making friends. She was a nice girl who was described as bubbly and outgoing. Shanda started doing cheerleading and other sports like volleyball. In school, Shanda would eventually meet 14-year old Amanda Heavrin when they got into a fight that resulted with them getting detention. This is when they started becoming friendly. They would become friends, and Shanda’s mom had some reservations about Amanda but allowed Shanda to continue the friendship. Shanda would learn that Amanda was in an on-again, off-again relationship with 16-year old Melinda Loveless.
Melinda Loveless Becomes Jealous
Shanda Sharer’s and Amanda Heavrin’s relationship turned romantic and they started exchanging love letters. Shanda’s school performance started declining, and Shanda’s mother started becoming more concerned about the two girls’ friendship.
In October 1991, Shanda and Amanda went to a school dance, and Melinda Loveless saw them together. Melinda went up to them and tried to fight Shanda but was stopped. In the subsequent weeks, Melinda started harassing Shanda. She also started telling Amanda in letters that she wanted to kill Shanda. Amanda said in an interview that she gave the letters to prosecutors, and they said they would have a meeting with Melinda’s parents and Melinda. Shanda’s parents found out about Melinda either by the prosecutors letting them know about her threats or by the letter Amanda wrote Shanda telling her that Melinda wanted to kill her. Either way, Shanda’s parents became increasingly concerned.
When Shanda’s mother Jacque accidentally saw one of the love letters between the two girls in addition to Melinda’s threats, Jacque put a stop to the friendship and transferred Shanda to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School. The two girls remained in contact, but the communication started becoming less and less because Shanda started making new friends at her new school and was not being as responsive to Amanda as she had in the past.
On January 10, 1992, Shanda was staying with her father in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Lauri Tackett, Hope Rippey, and Toni Lawrence went there, knocked on the door at 8PM and told Shanda that Amanda wanted to hang out with her. Shanda told them to come back at midnight when her dad and stepmother would be asleep. The girls did, and Shanda got in the car not knowing that Melinda Loveless was hiding in the back. When Shanda noticed Amanda was not in the car, she started asking where she was. At this time, Melinda pulled Shanda’s head back and put a knife on the girl’s throat. They took her to an abandoned house called Witch’s Castle in Madison, Indiana that was a teenage hangout spot. From court papers, they scared Shanda but she was left unharmed. They headed to Lauri Tackett’s house where Melinda and Lauri started beating Shanda. Melinda punched her in the stomach and hit Shanda’s mouth her knee. Lauri started choking and stabbing Shanda. They took the bloody girl to the trunk and locked her in there. The two other girls 15-year olds Hope Rippey and Toni Lawrence remained in Lauri’s house while the other two drove around with Shanda in the trunk. Very similar to Stacey Hanna in that when Shanda screamed, they stabbed her to shut her up. They kept driving around and Lauri beat Shanda with a tire iron. It is said that she also sodomized the 12-year old girl.
They eventually returned and picked up Hope and Toni. They decided to burn Shanda’s body thinking the girl was dead. Hope Rippey suggested a spot and they drove there. Hope poured gasoline all over Shanda, and the girls set her on fire. Shanda was still alive when she burned alive.
After this senseless torture and murder, the four girls went to eat breakfast.
The body was discovered that morning by a hunter, and the autopsy showed that the victim had died from smoke inhalation and burns. At first, it was considered a Jane Doe case until police connected the dots and learned about missing girl named Shanda in another county. They confirmed that the burned body was of Shanda Sharer.
At this same time, Melinda told Amanda Heavrin about Shanda’s death and showed her the bloody trunk. Amanda didn’t believe her and thought Melinda was lying. She didn’t tell anyone.
Toni Lawrence went to the police because she couldn’t deal with the guilt and gave them all the details of what had happened to Shanda. All four girls were charged as adults.
Where Are We Now?
From Amanda’s interview, it seems that Shanda’s father died of alcohol poisoning. She says “that he drank himself to death,” and this is another situation where there are more victims than just the person who was murdered.
Toni was released in the year 2000 after serving eight years of a 20-year sentence.
Hope was released in 2006 after serving 14 years of a 60-year sentence. On a Dr. Phil show, Shanda Sharer’s mother Jacque Vaught confronted Hope Rippey. Throughout the interview, Hope seemed very remorseful. One thing that Jacque said to her as if she did feel sorry for what she did, then she would not have gotten out of jail earlier than she was supposed to.
Laurie was released last year on January 11, 2018 after 26 years of a 60-year sentence. Shanda’s mother said that in one of the court hearings, Laurie said that she knew it was her destiny to murder someone.
Melinda remains in jail but will be released in September 2019 after serving 27 years of a 60-year sentence. On my Instagram, I show that Melinda is now training dogs for the ICAN program and that Jacque, Shanda’s mother, donated a puppy for Melinda to train. It is a way of helping her heal.
Teenagers sometimes don’t think about what is ahead of them. Melinda was so wrapped up in jealousy that she orchestrated the torture and death of 12-year old Shanda Sharer. It’s scary that three other girls followed and participated in doing so. They always say that a person is smart, but a group is dumb. This is one of the times that this is true. I hope that these girls never hurt another human being again because Shanda didn’t deserve it.
Jacque Vaught hopes the world never forgets Shanda Sharer, and they shouldn’t.