In Cold Blood: A Daughter's Brutal Murder: Jacque

Horrible Things, Unspeakable Things

It was a horrific crime that made international headlines, and its chilling details became the fodder for books, movies and television dramas. In January 1992, 12-year-old Shanda Sharer's lifeless body was discovered burned beyond recognition on the side of an old country road. She had been viciously beaten, tortured for hours and burned alive. As shocking as the details were at the time, the most startling development in this case was discovering who was behind this ghastly plot " four teenage girls: Laurie Tackett, 16, Melinda Loveless, 16, Toni Lawrence, 15, and Hope Rippey, 15.

Hear from reporters, investigators and a judge involved in the case.


Shanda's mother, Jacque, shares with Dr. Phil those memories that she clings to. "She was delightful and happy," she remembers. "She was a typical little girl. [She was] very athletic and into every sport; everything she could be in, she was in. She was very tender-hearted. If she just thought she upset you, she would immediately tear up. She was very thoughtful, kind and considerate.


[AD]"She lived a full 12 years; that was all she got. But, in those 12 years, she lived a very full life," she says. "She was a true gift."

With her parents divorced, Shanda was spending that fateful weekend with her father. There was a knock at the door, and two girls Shanda didn't know appeared on the front step. It was clear to her father, Steve, by listening to their conversation, that Shanda didn't know the girls. They were Hope and Toni. When his daughter closed the door, Jacque says Steve questioned Shanda at length about their identifies, and grew frustrated when he felt she was being dishonest with him.

"What we do know," Dr. Phil says, "is Melinda had a relationship with another girl " Amanda. Melinda was very upset that Shanda had a relationship with her, and was out to get [her]. [Laurie, Hope and Toni] were in cahoots with Melinda. They [wanted] to get her out of the house some way."

After Shanda's father had gone to sleep, the girls returned to the house, Melinda hiding beneath a blanket in the backseat, clutching a knife. Shanda walked to the car at the end of the drive, without her winter coat, or any of her belongings, or any plans to leave that night, and the girls took off with her.

With the car speeding away, "Melinda came up from behind, and put a knife to her neck," Jacque tells. "The thing that I have always thought was unbelievable was the only person that evening, out of the four girls, that knew Shanda, was Melinda Loveless. The other three girls had never met Shanda, and had no reason to dislike her.

"Melinda had told them in the beginning of the evening that she was going to kill Shanda that night," Jacque says. "They knew that was what the evening would be, and they continued to go with her."

The girls first drove Shanda to an old burned-down house nearby called the Witch's Castle, where they say they stripped the 12-year-old down of most of her clothes. They also reportedly removed her jewelry, and the girls wore her watch and rings. They then taunted her, and threatened to cut off her hair, among other intimidations.

"I can't even imagine how frightened she was," Jacque says.

The four teenagers became unnerved at passing cars along the neighboring road, and left with Shanda, to an area behind Laurie Tackett's house, known to residents as the Burn Pile. Unable to defend herself with her hands and feet tied, Shanda knelt down, while Melinda kicked her in the mouth repeatedly, causing her braces to push through her lips.

[AD]"She was bleeding profusely from the face and the mouth," Jacque says.

The girls together stabbed Shanda on the bottom of her feet and in her legs.

"At one point, Laurie and Melinda take a rope on her neck, and each of them pulls it until she is no longer conscious. They think she is dead," Jacque says. They put Shanda's battered body in the trunk of the car.

Unknown to the young women, Shanda was still fighting for her life in the trunk of that car. The torture Shanda would endure had only begun.

"They all then get in the car, and go to Laurie's house, and go into [her] room," Jacque says. "They are all talking, but they think Shanda is dead.

"And then there is a noise " and the dog begins to bark," she continues. "It's Shanda. She's in the trunk, and she's trying to get out."

Laurie offers to "take care of it" and goes outside on her own, where she is reported to have struck Shanda several times with a tire iron in order to quiet her.

"They all talk, and decide that they have a real problem here because Shanda isn't dead," Jacque recounts of the horrific tale. She says they decide they have to kill her. "They've got to do whatever they've got to do to make her die."

Hope and Toni stay behind at Laurie's house with the girl's parents for four hours and take a nap, never mentioning the unspeakable crime to anyone. Melinda and Laurie leave in the car, with Shanda in the trunk.

"There were several chances for them to have stopped this " any one of them," Jacque says, "but they didn't."

[AD]Melinda and Laurie reportedly debated about what to do with Shanda, but couldn't come to an agreement. "They did all sorts of things to try to kill her, but Shanda would not die " she would not die," her mother says. "No matter what they did to her, she would not die."

Melinda and Laurie return to Laurie's home when daybreak came. They still had Shanda in the trunk, clinging to life, and told the other two they had to get rid of Shanda once and for all.

"Hope said that somebody told her, ‘If you want to get rid of a body, you have to burn it,'" Jacque recalls. "In their immaturity, they actually believed that if they burned the body, and the knife, it would totally disintegrate."

In agreement about the way that they would dispose of the still-alive Shanda, they went to a gas station, bought a liter of Pepsi, and filled it up with gasoline.

"While they are at the gas station, Shanda is making so much noise, they have to move the car, because they don't want the attendant to hear her," Jacque says. "She's been tortured for 10 hours at this point " with a tire iron, stabbed, strangled and beaten."

The girls drive Shanda down a gravel road, and to an open field, not far from a dense forest.

"Why they laid her right on the side of the road " I have no idea," Jacque says, guessing this could be yet another indication of their juvenile mindset.

"They wrapped her in a blanket. Hope Rippey took the gasoline, and poured it on her body. And Laurie Tackett took a match, knelt down, and set her on fire.


"They all got in a car and left. Melinda looked back and said, ‘She's not burning enough,'" Jacque says. "They went back and set her on fire for a second time."

[AD]Shanda Sharer's official cause of death was due to smoke inhalation because she had been alive while she was set on fire.

For the first time Jacque breaks down. "I always prayed that God took over, and kept her safe and didn't let her feel the pain. I feel bad that I couldn't be there to save her and help her." She pauses. "I just can't imagine what she went through."

"It sounds like she fought so very hard to live," Dr. Phil notes, comforting Jacque.

"There were horrible things " unspeakable things."