The Murder of Shanda Sherer

Shanda Sherer

Shanda Sherer

Shanda Sherer was born on June 6, 1979, in Pineville, Kentucky. Her parents were Stephen Sharer and Jacqueline Vaught. When they divorced; Jacqueline remarried and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. After another divorce, she moved her family to New Albany, Indiana. Stephen resettled in Jeffersonville, Indiana with his wife, Sharon. Shanda would stay with him on weekends.

Upon moving, Jacqueline initially enrolled Shanda in Our Lady of Perpetual Hope, but she wanted to go to a public school. Her mother agreed, and she transferred to Hazelwood Middle School, where she joined the basketball team. Shanda had always been involved in sports and enjoyed writing poetry. While Shanda was enrolled in Hazelwood Middle School, she met Amanda Heavrin. When they met, they got into a physical altercation and both received a week of detention. In detention, the two teenagers connected and became friends. The two would become inseparable.

Melinda Loveless

Melinda Loveless was born on October 28, 1975, in New Albany, Indiana. She had two older sisters. They all lived with their parents, Marjorie and Larry Loveless. Marjorie would disclose intimate aspects of their relationship during the sentence hearing- he enjoyed watching her have sexual intercourse with other men, which made him jealous. Larry would make Marjorie have sex with his friends. She did not like or willfully engage in these sexual acts and attempted to end her life multiple times. Once, Loveless and her sisters found their mom lying on the floor, unconscious, with family pictures around her; she tried to end her life. She tried to say no to have sexual intercourse with Larry, which he respected for a short time, until he beat and raped her in front of their daughters.

Melinda Loveless

The siblings endured psychological abuse in their childhood. Loveless’s sister, Melissa, recalled a time when her father became extremely religious. He claimed their possessions had demons in them. One of these items was Loveless’s favorite doll, which he took and burned. Larry also brought Loveless to a hotel and left her with a man who claimed he would remove demons from her. His religious phase lasted about three years.

During Loveless’s sentencing hearing, she revealed her father had sexually abused her. Due to her claims, police investigated and substantiated the allegations. Larry Eugene Loveless sexually abused his three daughters and two of their cousins. Melissa had also told the courts she, Loveless, and their other sister had been taken to the garage, forced to strip naked, and lay on the ground. Larry used a chain and bound them together, and sodomized each of them. In one instance, Larry took a loaded pistol and put it into the victim’s vagina and raped her; the news article does not state if this happened specifically to Loveless or a family member. Police arrested Loveless Senior and charged him with three counts of rape, six counts of sodomy, and two counts of sexual battery.

Laurie Tackett

Laurie Tackett was born in Madison, Indiana on October 5, 1974. She lived with her mother and her father. Her mother, Peggy Tackett, was extremely religious, and forced those beliefs onto her daughter. One time, a friend’s father bought an Ouija board. When Peggy found out, she went to the friend’s house and demanded she burn the board and demanded an exorcism be performed on the house. The father obliged, as it did not bother him and would appease Peggy. Tackett claimed she was only allowed to listen to gospel music and was made fun of for their beliefs.

Tackett had told the courts that she had been raped twice, once by a teenaged boy while they were huffing glue and once by a cousin. These claims have not been substantiated, though the court documents do acknowledge that Tackett was sexually abused.

Mary Laurie Tackett

During her childhood, Tackett was physically abused. She would tell the courts that her mom would choke and slap her weekly. Tackett once went to a neighbor for help, telling her that her mom had strangled her. The neighbor reported the incident to child welfare.

Tackett was interested in the occult. She was known to use runes, Ouija boards, and it was reported that she had drank blood before. She had engaged in self-harming behaviors and attempted suicide multiple times. She stated when she cut herself, “It felt like the stress was leaving.” 

Tackett had met Loveless a few weeks before the murder, though it is not certain how or where. They became close quickly. Tackett had never met Shanda before the night she helped murder her. 

Toni Lawrence

Toni Lawerence was born on February 14, 1976, in Madison, Indiana. Lawrence was molested by a family member when she was 9. When she was 14, she was raped by a teenage boy. As an adolescent, Lawrence was known to be promiscuous. She also engaged in self-harming behavior.

Lawrence did not know Loveless or Shanda before the night of the murder. She had been close friends with Hope Rippey, who was also involved in the murder. Lawrence and Rippey knew Tackket from the area, though they only hung out once before the night they murdered Shanda.

Toni Lawrence

Hope Rippey

Hope Rippey was born on June 9, 1976. Her parents had divorced in 1984 and Rippey went to live with her mother and siblings. She lived in Quincy, Michigan, with them before her parents reconciled. They moved back to Madison in 1987.

Hope Rippey

Leading to the Murder

Before Shanda arrived at Hazelwood Middle School, Amanda and Loveless would never be seen apart. Once Shanda and Amanda became friends, Loveless realized she was losing the close bond she shared with Amanda. Loveless grew immensely jealous of their newfound friendship. Loveless told Amanda to stop hanging out with Shanda; when she saw that didn’t stop them, she threatened Shanda in the hallway.

Amanda was 15 years old at the time, 3 years older than Shanda; Jacqueline did not completely approve of the friendship, but did not want her daughter to be lonely after moving to a new area. Once Jacqueline found out that her daughter had forged her signature and Amanda was the one who instructed her how to do so. Jacqueline told Shanda she could not hang out with Amanda anymore. She transferred her back to Our Lady of Perpetual Hope.

Shortly after she switched schools, Jacqueline had found another letter. She told newspapers the letter made her believe that Amanda was obsessed with Shanda and wanted a sexual relationship with her. Jacqueline has a talk with Shanda, which ended on a good note.

There were other letters that Jacquline did not find until after the murder. The letters were found in a box that said “For my eyes only. Please do not touch.” Inside the box contained letters that Amanda had written to Shanda. According to Jacquline who spoke to The Courier Journal in 1993, the letters said things such as “I like boys, do you?” “I like girls too. Do you?”; “I think it’s OK to touch. Do you think it is Ok to touch? Have you ever touched another girl?”. The

The Night of the Murder

Hours before the murder, Loveless put her plan into action. She called Amanda and told her that she was going to kill Shanda. A classmate, who was not named in the news article, overheard part of Amanda’s side of the conversation. The classmate stated he heard Amanda tell Loveless not to kill Shanda that she will get arrested. Neither Amanda nor her classmate told Shanda or the police about the conversation.

The girls had planned to go to a Sunspring concert and would stop and scare Shandra along the way. The three teenagers had not met Shanda before but knew about the contempt Loveless had for her. The four girls had been in Loveless’s house, getting ready for the concert and listening to Loveless go on about how much she hated Shanda.

Shanda had been staying at her father’s house for the weekend. She had been out with a friend at a party and arrived home in the evening. Shandra wanted her friend, Michelle, to stay over the night, but her father said no, as they had little space at the time. Stephan had his relatives staying over to help him with construction in the house. Steven had spoken with Michelle’s mother and arranged for her to be picked up.

The four teenagers left Loveless’s place and headed for Shandra’s house. Loveless told Rippey and Tackett to knock, ask for Shanda, and tell her that Amanda wanted to see her. Shanda opened the door. Since the girls had never met her before, they did not recognize her, and asked to speak with Shanda. Her father asked who was there, noticing that the girls did not recognize his daughter; Shanda told him they were her friends. Rippey and Tackett told Shanda that Amanda was waiting to see her at a place called The Witches’ Castle. Shanda said she would be able to go around midnight, after her parents had fallen asleep.

They left and headed to the concert and planned to return to Sharda’s later. The concert was being held in the A-1 Skate Park. The girls met some boys upon arriving, who said they would take them to get liquor. They lead them to a deserted parking lot. The girls left and headed back to the concert. After a few minutes of dancing, Rippey and Lawrence became tired and asked if they could wait in the car. In the parking lot, they met 2 boys who they became friendly with. After making out a bit, Lawrence revealed to them that their friends were planning on killing someone later.

The girls departed from the boys they met and started heading back to Shanda’s house.

Back in Shandra’s house, around midnight, Stephan told his daughter to turn the lights out and went to bed himself.

The Witches Castle 

Once the teenagers arrived back at Shanda’s house, Rippey and Tackett approached the side door. of the residence. Loveless waited on the backseat floor, covered in a red blanket, holding a knife. After convincing Shandra to leave with them to ‘meet Amanda’, and making sure she got in the front seat, they drove to The Witches’ Castle.

While on the way there, the girls asked Shanda if she knew Melinda Loveless and anything about her relationship with Amanda. Shanda told them that she had been going out with Amanda for a few months and that Amanda and Loveless were broken up.

Witches Castle

At some point, Loveless popped out, pull Shanda’s head back and put a knife to Shandra, and interrogated her further about her relationship with Amanda. Shanda started crying while being yelled out by Loveless; she was asking about what activities that had done together and their sexual life.

They reached The Witches’ Castle and took Shanda out of the car. They made her take off her watch and jewelry and lead her into the property. They tied her ankles and wrists together. They mocked and made fun of Shanda; they threatened her. Shanda cried.

Fearing they would be seen from cars passing by, they forced Shanda into the truck of the car and headed to Tackett’s house.

The Murder

According to court documents, once the teenagers arrived at the woods near Tackett’s house, they forced Shanda out the car. Shanda was forced to take her pants off. Loveless punched her and kneed her in the face. Tackett used a rope to choke Shanda. According to Loveless, Shanda was kicking and screaming for help, but she just stood there and watched. As Shanda pleaded for her life, Loveless told her to shut up. After Shanda lost consciousness, she was placed in the trunk of the car.

The teenagers then went back to Tackett’s, and they all went inside for a bit. While they were in the house, Shanda could be heard making noise from the trunk. Tackett went outside and returned, covered in blood. Shortly after, Loveless and Tackett left again with Shanda in the trunk; Lawrence and Rippey stood behind. The two drove around for a few hours with Shanda in the trunk, pulling over to beat Shanda with a tire iron.

Loveless and Tackett went back and picked Rippey and Lawrence up. Together, they decided to burn Shanda’s body to get rid of any evidence there may be. The four teenagers left the house again with Shanda still tied up, beaten in the trunk. They drove to a gas station to fill a soda bottle up with gas. At some point, they pulled over again. Loveless and Tackett got out of the car and beat Shanda each time she made noise with a tire iron. After getting back in the car, they drove to a rural road.

The teenagers got out of the car and removed Shanda from the trunk. Rippey and Loveless poured gasoline on her and Tackett set Shanda on fire while she was still alive.

The four left and went to get breakfast.

The following day, Amanda and a friend were at the mall. There was an emergency announcement for Amanda; it was loveless telling her that Shanda was dead, and she needed to speak to her. Amanda and her friend went to the parking lot. The teenager that was with Amanda stated he saw her leave with three girls.

Shanda Sharer is Found

Around 10:45am, on January 11, 1992, two hunters were driving through the rural part of Madison, Indianapolis, when they came upon a grisly sight: the burned body of a young female. They called the police, who responded, and started their investigation. At the crime scene, police found footprints, tire tracks, and a melted soda bottle.

Autopsy

The medical examiner, Dr. George Nichols, determined the cause of death to be burns and smoke inhalation. The autopsy also revealed that Shanda had knife cuts on her legs, she had been beaten, and sodomized with a tire iron.

Arrest, Trial, Pleas, & Sentencing

Later in the evening, a 15-year-old boy told police he had overheard a conversation pertaining to a murder while he was at a bowling alley. He heard Lawrence telling others that she had witnessed a murder. While police were talking to the 15-year-old boy, Lawrence and her parents had arrived at the police, wanting to tell them what happened. According to The Courier, police stated she was hysterical while she had told them about the torture and murder that took place. After her statement, police obtained a warrant and went to arrest Loveless and Tackett.

Melinda Loveless & Mary Laurie Tackett

Melinda Loveless and Mary Laurine “Laurie” Tackett were arrested on January 13, 1992, around 2:30am.

They were initially only charged with murder. Additional charges were added on March 16, 1992. The new charges were: Child molesting; arson; criminal deviate conduct; battery with a deadly weapon; aggravated battery; criminal confinement and intimidation.

Melinda Loveless had a trail set for June 23, 1993. Mary Laurine “Laurie” Tackett’s trial was scheduled for June 25, 1993. There trials were postponed several times; eventually a plea deal was reached, and the death penalty was removed as being a possible sentence.

Loveless and Tackett plead guilty to murder, arson, and criminal confinement.

During a weeklong sentence hearing for Loveless, details about her abusive childhood were revealed, along with details of the murder she committed. Loveless did not testify on her own behalf but did make a statement to Shanda’s family, “I know I can’t take away your pain and I can’t bring Shanda back, but I do feel you pain. I’m so sorry. If I could trade places with Shanda, I would. I would, I’m so sorry.”

Both were sentenced on January 4, 1993, to serve 60 years.

Toni Lawrence & Hope Rippey

Toni Lawrence and Hope Rippey were arrested on March 17, 1992. They were both charged with: Murder; Arson; Criminal deviant conduct; Battery with a deadly weapon; Aggravated battery; Criminal confinement; and intimidation.

In exchange for her testimony, Toni Lawrence plead guilty to Criminal Confinement resulting in serious bodily injury, and was sentenced to 20 years on January 28, 1993.

In August 1992, Lawrence attempted suicide while in custody. She had been prescribed Lorazepam for depression and managed to hoard some of her pills.

Hope Rippey had a scheduled trial for May 3, 1993. She instead

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Aftermath

Shandra is buried next to her father.

Shanda’s mother does not want what happened to her daughter to be “toned down”, she told The Courier. She also thought it was unfair that Loveless took all the blame.  

Released From Prison

All four offenders have been released from prison.

Toni Lawrence was released from prison in 2000.

Hope Rippey was released from prison in 2006.

Laurie Tackett was released on January 11, 2018.

Melinda Loveless was released from prison in 2019

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