Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Death of Innocence - The Murder of Young Shanda Sharer

Pathetic Excuses

Toni Lawrence's sentencing hearing began on January 19, 1993. The hearing lasted a mere two days, during which time investigators praised Lawrence for her cooperation and several teachers, family members and friends testified on her behalf. Lawrence was also granted permission by the court to read a statement of her own to Sharer's family.

"I'm so sorry about your little girl. I know that you can never forgive me for being with those girls on January 10th and 11th, but I would like to explain some things to you.

"I do feel very much remorse for your daughter. I've been locked up for ten months, and that time has been a living hell. I've had nightmares where I wake up screaming and can't stop to think for a second without seeing Shanda's burned body or hearing her screams. I was terrified of Melinda and Laurie. Melinda had a knife and was going to kill Shanda. I know I should be punished, but in my heart, seeing Shanda tortured and burnt was punishment in itself. I didn't get help because I was scared they would kill me too.

"That night and morning will live visibly in my mind for the rest of my life. I know you have the right to hate me. I wish there was something I could do for you, but all I can say is how very sorry I am."

Following Lawrence's statement, Jackie Vaught took the stand and gave her reply.

"I sat through three sentencing hearings and had to look and listen to my daughter's murderers day after day while they lied and put on acts worthy of an Oscar . . . I see attorneys trying to convince everyone that these girls are victims. The victim here is Shanda Renee Sharer and her family and friends. Toni could have saved my daughter's life that night at any given time. She chose not to."

When court reconvened the following morning, Judge Todd sentenced Toni Lawrence to serve 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence allowed by law. Lawrence broke down and cried as deputies led her away.

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