Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Death of Innocence - The Murder of Young Shanda Sharer

Autopsy

On Sunday morning, Dr. George Nichols conducted Shanda's autopsy. The procedure revealed that she had suffered multiple injuries. Ligature marks were found on her wrists, and she had several lacerations on her head, neck and legs. Shanda's fingers were in such distorted condition that they had to be cut off in order to take prints. Her jaw was also removed so that her dentist could make a positive identification. The upper part of the body was covered in third and fourth degree burns, and her tongue protruded through clenched teeth. Lacerations to the anus and rectum indicated a blunt object had been inserted at least three and a half inches. In addition, the extent of rectal bleeding showed that she had been alive at the time of the assault. Most revealing of all was the discovery of soot in the upper airway, indicating that she had been alive when she was set on fire.

Investigators questioned both Melinda Loveless and Laurie Tackett before transporting them to the Indiana Circuit Court in Madison. A single count of murder was entered against both girls, and counsel was appointed to represent them. In a separate hearing, Judge Ted Todd waived both girls from the juvenile court system, determining that they would be tried as adults. Following Loveless and Tackett's hearing, prosecutor Guy Townsend spoke with Hope Rippey's attorney regarding her involvement.

By this time, the media were swarming all over the case, and it was making national headlines. The public was in shock and demanded quick justice for Shanda. The media attention also brought forth several teens who knew the accused and felt they had interesting tidbits of information to contribute. Apparently Loveless and Tackett had confessed to at least three people, two of whom swiftly made statements to Shipley and Henry. The facts were starting to fall into place, and investigators were slowly piecing together what had happened to Shanda. While each of the girls tried to play down her own role in the murder, most of their statements matched. Prosecutor Guy Townsend was confident. There was no way Shanda could be brought back, but he was determined that she get justice. A picture, based upon the girls' confessions, statements by witnesses and evidence uncovered by investigators, was beginning to emerge of Shanda Sharer's last hours of life, which would make that possible.

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