During the night of January 10-11, 1992, 12-year-old Shanda Sharer disappeared from her father’s home in Jeffersonville, IN. Her parents reported her missing after calling around to several friends and family members to try to locate her, without success. What began as a missing child case was soon to be revealed as a case of murder, and the identities of the killers would shock the nation.
Shanda Sharer’s parents, Steve Sharer and Jacque Vaught, were divorced. After a couple of moves, Vaught and Shanda settled in New Albany, IN and Shanda began attending Hazelwood Middle School. It was here that she met Amanda Heavrin.
Heavrin was dating Melinda Loveless, a 16-year-old girl. Loveless immediately became jealous of Shanda’s friendship with Heavrin, a friendship that some claimed was actually a romantic involvement. Whether Shanda and Heavrin were truly girlfriends or not, Loveless saw Shanda as a threat to her happiness and began to threaten her. Shanda’s parents removed her from Hazelwood and enrolled her in a local Catholic school, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Despite the separation of Shanda and Heavrin, Loveless’s hatred toward Shanda continued. Finally, on January 10, 1992, she enlisted the help of three other girls-Laurie Tackett, age 17; Hope Rippey, age 15; and Toni Lawrence, also 15-to lure Shanda from her father’s home by pretending to be friends of Amanda, so Loveless could scare her and possibly beat her up. Rippey and Lawrence went to the door at Steve Sharer’s home and were told by Shanda to return after her father and stepmother were asleep.
The four girls returned just after midnight and followed Rippey, accompanied by Tackett this time, to Tackett’s car. Loveless was hiding in the backseat under a blanket. After the car pulled away from the Sharer residence, Loveless emerged from hiding and put a knife to Shanda’s throat.
The group drove to a remote area known as the “Witch’s Castle,” where Shanda was tied up and robbed of her Mickey Mouse watch and jewelry. The girls then made their way to an even more remote logging road, where Shanda was stripped, beaten, and finally stabbed and stuffed in the trunk. Tackett and Loveless told the others Shanda was dead, before driving to Tackett’s home.
Over the next few hours, Shanda was repeatedly stabbed and beaten with a tire iron while still in the trunk at Tackett’s home, then taken to Lemon Road near the town of Madison, IN. On the way, the group stopped at a gas station and bought a 2 liter of Pepsi, drinking part of it and dumping the rest before refilling the bottle with gasoline. None of the girls attempted to get help for Shanda while at the gas station, or at any other opportunity during the abduction. Once they reached Lemon Road, they removed Shanda from the trunk, doused her with the gas, and burned her alive.
Later that morning, two hunters found Shanda's body, at first mistaking it for an inflatable sex doll that someone burned as a prank. Once they realized it was a human being, they called the police.