Death of Innocence - The Murder of Young Shanda Sharer
"I Don't Know What Normal is Anymore"
Hope Rippey ultimately accepted a plea deal as well, and her sentencing hearing began on June 1, 1993. At the request of the defense, the hearing was moved to South Bend, Ind., and was held at St. Joseph's Superior Court House with Judge Jeanne Jourdan presiding. At the outset of the hearing, Rippey made a statement maintaining her claim that her only action against Shanda had been pouring the gasoline on her body. Following her brief statement, the defense called psychologist Michael Sheehan to the stand. Dr. Sheehan stated that Rippey was immature and had acted solely under the domination of Melinda Loveless and Laurie Tackett. However, testimony by Lawrence, Loveless and Tackett painted a different picture. The prosecution also called witnesses from the previous three proceedings. The last to testify was Sharer's mother, Jackie Vaught. As she once again showed the video of Sharer to the court, she became angry when Rippey held her head down. In response Judge Jourdan ordered Rippey to watch the presentation. Following the video, Vaught made a brief statement.
"Imagine how you would feel if someone did to your niece what you did to our child. You cannot know the pain we've felt. There is no greater pain than losing your child."
After a short recess, Judge Jourdan sentenced Hope Rippey to the maximum sentence of 60 years, but suspended 10 years for mitigating circumstances, ordering her to be placed on probation for 10 years at the time of her release. Judge Jourdan then made her own statement to the court.
"Hope Rippey had choices. There were avenues of escape, ways to help herself, ways to help Shanda. She poured the gasoline so no one would get caught, even though she knew it would kill Shanda. Her lack of mercy, of tender courage, is a horrifying lesson to us all."
Following Rippey's sentencing, Jackie Vaught spoke to the press from the steps of the courthouse.
"I don't know what normal is anymore, I'm not the person I was when Shanda was here. I'm going home to my new grandbaby who was just born. You have to go on. Shanda's with God."