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|“||Melinda Loveless is the closest thing you will ever look at and know what the Devil is. Her eyes are empty. There's nothing inside of her.||„|
|~ Jacqueline Vaught (Shanda's mother), describes Melinda Loveless.|
Melinda Loveless (born on October 28th, 1975) is an American woman from New Albany, Indiana, who, at the age of sixteen, kidnapped, tortured, and brutally murdered a 12-year old girl named Shanda Sharer out of jealousy due to Shanda's close friendship with her former girlfriend Amanda Heavrin. Over the course of eight hours on January 11, 1992, Loveless and three accomplices - her friends Laurie Tackett, Hope Rippey, and Toni Lawrence - systematically tortured Sharer in various ways (physically, psychologically, and even sexually), before finally killing her in the early morning hours by burning her alive. The crime is considered to be one of the most gruesome and horrific crimes to have occurred in the history of the state of Indiana.
Melinda Loveless was the youngest of three daughters born to Larry and Marjorie Loveless. As a child, Melinda, her sisters, and even their mother were subjected to physical and sexual abuse from Larry, who was an extreme sexual deviant and a serial adulterer. According to various testimonies and family accounts, Larry regularly molested all three of his daughters and also took to stealing their panties and wearing their makeup. He would also force Marjorie to have sex with other men and sometimes partake in orgies. She was often forced to participate in these activities against her will, and attempted suicide several times because of it. The abuse that Melinda suffered at the hands of her father played a large factor in her eventually becoming a killer. In her teenage years, she was also diagnosed with a number of mental disorders, including depression. She also struggled after she initially came out as a lesbian to her mother (who didn't approve at first but learned to accept it later on.)
Because of her involvement in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Shanda Sharer, Melinda is well-known. She had been dating a girl named Amanda Heavrin. When she noticed Heavrin had been spending a lot of time with Shanda Sharer, who was 12 years old at the time, Melinda's jealousy began. She wanted Shanda punished and out of the picture.
On January 10th, 1992 Melinda told her friend Laurie Tackett about her plan to murder young Shanda. Laurie was 17 year olds and has since been diagnosed as a sociopath. She often talked about how she would love to kill someone to see how it felt. Later that day, Melinda met Laurie's friends Toni Lawrence and Hope Rippey, both 15. They talked and hung out together. Melinda told them about her plan and pulled out a knife and said, "This is the knife I'm going to use to scare Shanda!". Melinda said that all she wanted to do was confront her, but still joked around about killing her. Laurie's friends had plans to go see a concert. Melinda told them that everything would be quick and that they would go see it afterwards. Melinda managed to get Shanda's address and drove to Shanda's house. She wanted Hope and Toni to go to the door and ask for Shanda. Melinda couldn't go, because she and Shanda were enemies. Shanda told the girls, when she answered the door, that she couldn't go out with them, but to come back at around midnight and she would sneak out. They went to the concert and came back. Melinda hid under a blanket so Shanda couldn't see her.
Once they drove off, Melinda jumped up with the knife and put it to Shanda's throat. Shanda began crying uncontrollably and begged Melinda not to hurt her. Melinda told Shanda that she wasn't going to hurt her and began interrogating her several questions about her relationship with Amanda Heavrin. Melinda called Shanda a b**** and a liar when Shanda tried to answer. They drove to a place called the Witch's Castle, a popular hideout for teens. Laurie and Melinda bound Sharer's hands and feet. Hope, Laurie and Melinda took Shanda's jewelry while Toni refused to participate. Laurie, fearing somebody would see the burning flames, decided they should move to a more isolated area. They drove Shanda to a forest.
They forced Shanda to strip to her underwear. Melinda and Laurie started beating Shanda. Shanda cried hysterically and kept begging for them to stop and swore that she won't go near Amanda anymore. They began stabbing her in the chest with a knife, but the cuts were too minor to cause her death. Laurie wanted to kill her now, so she grabbed a rope while Hope and Melinda held Shanda down. Laurie strangled Shanda. Unsure if she was dead, they tossed her in the trunk and drove to Laurie's house. They cleaned up and talked together. Then, Laurie's dog began barking and they heard Shanda's muffled screams. Laurie grabbed a big knife and went outside and started stabbing her to quiet her down. She came inside, covered in Shanda's blood, and cleaned off again. Melinda and Laurie decided to go for drive while Toni and Hope stayed behind. Laurie suggested they just drive around so Shanda could die slowly. Shanda started screaming and kicking and clawing in the inside of the truck. Laurie opened the truck and saw Shanda covered in blood. Laurie grabbed a tire iron and hit Shanda hard with it on the head. They drove around again when they heard gurgling noises coming from the truck. Shanda sat up, dazed. Her eyes were pure white and she was asking for her Mother. Melinda laughed about how stupid she looked and hit her again with the tire iron several times on her head. One of the wounds was so bad that chunk of her skull broke off. They closed the trunk and stopped several times to hit her with the tire iron.
They arrived back at Laurie's house to pick Hope and Toni up. Laurie tried to make them see Shanda, but Toni refused. They drove shut the trunk and sat in the car and talked and tried to calm Toni down. Before they would drive to get gas, Laurie wanted to check on Shanda. Shanda sat straight up and just swayed back and forth, probably too injured to realize reality. Laurie sodomized Shanda with the tire iron. They drove to the gas station and decided that they should burn Shanda alive. Toni bought a 2 liter bottle of Pepsi and Laurie poured it all out and filled it with gasoline. They drove to Lemon road. They rolled Shanda up in a red blanket. They lay her down on the ground and Hope poured gasoline on Shanda. Laurie lit the match that set Shanda on fire. The drove off, hoping that there would be no trace of her. During a stop at McDonalds for breakfast, they joked about Shanda looking like one of the sausages.
Discovery of Shanda
Later that day. Two men discovered Shanda's burned body. Her legs were widely outstretched and her hands were clenched together. Shanda's body was taken to the Sheriff's office. The police had received a report on a young missing girl by the name of Shanda Sharer matching her description. Because of the burns, researchers took dental records and found that they matched Shanda's. Later that day, Toni Lawrence confessed to the police of her involvement. She told them everything about the torture and murder. Toni was asked to look at Shanda and agreed. She also confirmed that the body belonged to Shanda.
Conviction and aftermath
Police drove to Melinda's house and arrested Melinda and Laurie. They were charged with arson, torture, and murder. So was Hope. Toni, on the other hand, was charged for criminal confinement. She had several opportunities to get help but chose not to. The four teenagers were tried as adults. Melinda and Laurie received a 60 year sentence and Hope was sentenced to 50 but it was reduced by 35 years. Toni was released in 2000 for good behavior. Hope was released on parole in 2006, and Tackett was released in 2018, also on parole.
During her prison sentence, Melinda has since expressed deep remorse and guilt for what she did to Shanda in several interviews. She has since become a dog trainer, training service dogs for special needs people, and has since claimed that she began doing this as a form of penance for what she did to Shanda. Shanda's mother, Jacqueline Vaught, has even donated a dog to Melinda to train in Shanda's name, perhaps recognizing that Melinda was trying to reform herself. Despite receiving criticism for doing this, Jacqueline has defended her actions, claiming that it was what Shanda would have wanted.
She was released from prison on September 5, 2019, making her a free woman for the first time since 1992.