Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Death of Innocence - The Murder of Young Shanda Sharer

Spotlight on Laurie Tackett

Laurie Tackett
Laurie Tackett

During the spring of 2006, the news spotlight momentarily switched from Hope Rippey to Laurie Tackett. During the previous year the Indiana Department of Corrections launched a program called PLUS in three of its state prisons. The program, which stands for Purposeful Living Units Serve, is a faith-based boot camp for prisoners intended to change their lives through spiritual renewal and education. In March 2006, Indiana news station WTHR broadcast a report from inside the prison to see how well the program was working. Reporter Anne Ryder interviewed several inmates, including 31-year-old Laurie Tackett.

"I am changing everything I have known all my life," Tackett said. "God was the last thing I wanted in my life. I had no faith in life. I had no faith in God. I had no faith in people. I had none of that. I had to fall on my face and start over." Tackett told Ryder that the shame of her crime defined her until she tried unsuccessfully to take her own life in the fall of 2004. It was then she claims that she felt God's love in her heart. "I took God's hand...I've never felt that before in my life."

Regardless of whose hand Tackett felt soothing her, six months later, when the PLUS program came to the Indiana Women's Prison she was one of the first to sign up. Tackett now supposedly spends her free time studying the Bible and coming to grips with the consequences of her crimes. "I don't think I've really forgiven myself. I feel that's a lifelong process. Hopefully by the time I die I will be able to do that," Tackett said. In a later interview with WTHR, when asked whether she could ever forgive Tackett, Jackie Vaught simply replied, "It's just not up to me to forgive those girls. It's up to God to forgive them."

One must question why it is that Tackett suddenly embraced religion. It is certainly interesting how her conversion to God coincided with Rippey's sentence reduction. The Department of Corrections commissioner and others are quick to defend the PLUS program, and that's fine. It may work for some inmates; however, Laurie Tackett's sudden conversion may well have more to do with her own hopes for early release than it does with finding God.

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