Mastermind Behind Brutal Murder of Indiana Girl in 1992 Released From Prison

By Victor Westerkamp

Melinda Loveless, the mastermind behind the cruel gang rape torture-murder of 12-year-old Shanda Sharer in 1992 was released on Thursday, Sept. 5, after serving more than 26 years in prison.

Loveless, 44, was the last of four teenage girls to be released. She was considered to be the one who instigated the evil scheme to torture the then 12-year-old Shanda Sharer, burn her alive, and kill her. It happened near Madison, Jefferson County, Indiana, on Jan. 11, 1992.

Supposedly it was an act out of jealousy because Loveless believed Sharer had stolen her girlfriend from her.

In 2007, when Loveless sought an early release from prison, Sharer’s mother, Jacque Vaught, told WAVE 3 News:

“Melinda is, of the four girls, she is just evil,” Vaught said then. “If it wasn’t for her, Shanda would still be alive. She was the one that started it all [sic] she brutally murdered my child, and when I say brutal, it was brutal. There was 10 hours of torture.”

Melinda and her accomplices, Toni Lawrence, Hope Rippey, and Laurie Tackett, were sentenced in December 1992 to long term imprisonment.

“The horror of it all. The child that died and the children that killed her,” the lead prosecutor of the case in 1992, Guy Townsend, said in a telephone interview with Wash 11.

“It was one of the hardest; I guess the hardest year of my life as a prosecuting attorney was the year that I had to deal with this,” Townsend said. “And it was a year. It was one year, I was basically full time trying to make sure the people that killed Shanda received a just sentence for what they had done,” he said.

Loveless and Tackett avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to murder and criminal confinement and were sentenced to 60 years each.

“If you get a 60-year sentence and you stay out of trouble, you get credit for good time, so you end up serving half the time,” Townsend explained.

Loveless is the last to be released, after Laurie Tacket in 2018, Hope Rippey in 2006, and Toni Lawrence in 2000.

In June, another notorious gang rapist and killing and torturing accomplice made headlines.

Notorious Killer Who Murdered Nurse Anita Cobby Beaten by Inmates, Fighting for His Life

Gary Murphy, one of five men who brutally raped and murdered 26-year-old Anita Cobby in Sydney, Australia, in 1986, was attacked by a gang of inmates at Long Bay Jail in Sydney on Tuesday, Jun. 25.

The assault took place in the shower block in Long Bay jail in Sydney, at 10:20 a.m., Corrective Services NSW confirmed.

Murphy, now 61 years old, was transferred to St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst. He endured severe head and facial injuries but is said to be in stable condition.

Murphy, along with brothers Michael and Leslie Murphy, John Travers, and Michael Murdoch gang-raped and killed Cobby, a 26-year-old former beauty queen who was working as a nurse at the time, in 1986.

On the night of Feb. 2, Cobby had been out for dinner with friends. She was walking home from the Blacktown railway station, Sydney when the five men spotted her. They had just stolen a car and had been getting drunk at Doonside and needed some cash to fill up the tank.

Cobby was dragged into the car and was repeatedly raped and assaulted. Then they drove her some three miles away near a rural farm in Prospect, hauled her through a barbed wire fence into a paddock, and raped her again.

Her body was found two days later by a farmer. Several fingers were broken, and joints dislocated.

The men were arrested some three weeks later. Gary, 28, with his brothers Michael, 33, and Leslie, 22, Michael Murdoch, 19, and John Travers, 18, were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.