Melinda Loveless was the ringleader responsible for the murder of Shanda Sharer, along with her three accomplices, Laurie Tackett, Hope Rippey and Toni Lawrence.
In March 1991, Loveless revealed to her mother that she was a lesbian. While she was furious at first, she accepted her daughter's lifestyle. It is alleged that Loveless, Tackett, Rippey and Lawrence came from troubled or abusive homes. Court records testified that Melinda's father was violent. He abused Melinda, her mother, her sisters and a cousin for years.
At 16 years of age, Loveless became jealous when her ex-girlfriend Amanda Heavrin wanted to be with Shanda Sharer. She enlisted Tackett, Rippey and Lawrence to "scare" her with a knife, not telling them she had planned from the beginning to kill Sharer.
Hiding under a blanket in the backseat of a car at Sharer's house, Loveless waited as Rippey and Lawrence lured Sharer into the car. When Sharer got in, Loveless took her by the hair and held a knife to her throat, screaming "You stole my girlfriend!"
Tackett drove them to a garbage dump off a logging road in a densely forested area. Loveless and Tackett made Sharer leave the car and strip half naked, then Loveless beat Sharer with her fists. Loveless repeatedly slammed Sharer's face into her knee, cutting Sharer's mouth on her own braces, which she hadn't had for long. Loveless then tried to slash Sharer's throat but the knife was too dull, and Rippey came out of the car to hold Sharer down. Loveless and Tackett took turns stabbing Sharer in the chest; they then strangled Sharer with a rope until she was unconscious, placed her in the trunk, and told the other two girls that Sharer was dead.
They went to Tackett's nearby home and went inside to drink soda and clean themselves. They realized Sharer was screaming in the trunk, so Tackett went out with a paring knife and stabbed her several more times, coming in a few minutes later covered in blood. Lawrence and Rippey stayed behind as Tackett and Loveless went "country cruising" at 2:30, driving to the nearby town of Canaan. Sharer continued making crying and gurgling noises, so Tackett stopped the car. Sharer sat up, covered in blood and her eyes rolled in the back of her head, but was unable to speak. Tackett then beat her with a tire iron until she was silent.
They returned to Tackett's house just before daybreak to clean up again. Rippey asked about what had happened to Sharer, and Tackett laughingly told them about the torture. The conversation woke up Tackett's mother, who yelled at her daughter for being out so late and bringing home the girls, so Laurie agreed to take them home. She drove to the burn pile near Tackett's house and showed the other girls Sharer. Lawrence refused to look. She was terrified and paralyzed with fear but she was able to not participate. Rippey sprayed Sharer with Windex and taunted, "You're not looking so hot now, are you?"
The girls drove to a gas station near Madison Consolidated High School, pumped some gas into the car and bought a two-liter bottle of Pepsi. Tackett emptied the bottle and refilled it with gasoline. They drove north of Madison, past Jefferson Proving Ground to a place with which Rippey was familiar off US 421, on what was called Lemon Road. They placed Sharer, still alive, in a blanket and carried her into a field by the gravel country road. Tackett made Rippey pour the gasoline on her, and then Tackett set her on fire. Loveless was not convinced Sharer was dead, so they returned a few minutes later to pour the rest of the gasoline on her.
The next day, Loveless called Amanda Heavrin and confessed that she murdered Sharer. Heavrin didn't believe her because she couldn't "fathom that 4 girls would do this to another human being". That evening, Toni Lawrence turned herself in to the police and told them everything that had transpired. Shortly there after, the others were arrested.
All four girls were tried as adults and they all pleaded guilty. Toni Lawrence, the least involved, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but was paroled in 2000. Hope Rippey was sentenced to 60 years, but was released early in 2006. Tackett was released in 2018 and Loveless on September 5, 2019 from the Indiana State Women's Prison.
- Melinda Loveless is portrayed by Krystle Sansom in the episode "Thrill Killers". Sansom also portrayed Tiffany Cole in the episode "Loathe Thy Neighbor", victim Rachael Koloroutis in the episode "Love Gone Wrong", another victim character in "Mommy's Little Helpers" and a minor character in the episode "Killer Kids".