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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

Woman who confessed in torture, murder wants plea thrown out

MADISON, Ind. – The woman who confessed more than a decade ago of being the teenage ringleader in the torture killing of a 12-year-old girl is claiming her lawyers did a poor job and wants her guilty plea thrown out.\nMelinda Loveless was 16 when authorities say she and three other girls abducted Shanda Renee Sharer of New Albany, Ind., then tortured her and set her on fire.\nLoveless is scheduled on Monday to ask Jefferson Circuit Judge Ted Todd to overturn her guilty plea and 60-year prison sentence for the 1992 murder.\nLoveless’ lawyer, Mark Small, claims her original defense attorneys were ineffective and that she was treated more harshly than her co-defendants, two of whom have already been released from prison.\nSmall said he believed that then-prosecutor Guy Townsend’s threat to seek the death penalty caused Loveless to plead guilty “under duress.” He contends Townsend and Loveless’ attorneys should have known that the U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately ban the death penalty for minors since it had ruled in 1988 that no one younger than 16 could be executed.\n“He told my client’s mother and sisters that she’d better take the plea or she would be executed,” Small said. “He used a full-court press ... to get her to accept the plea offer that was put on the table.”\nCurrent Jefferson County Prosecutor Chad Lewis, however, said that an overall ban on juvenile executions didn’t happen until 2005.\n“She was death penalty-eligible” when she pleaded guilty, Lewis said. “There’s nothing wrong with the prosecutor using that as leverage” in negotiating a plea agreement.\nLoveless and three other teenagers abducted Sharer after luring her from her home following a punk rock concert in Louisville, Ky. According to court testimony, Loveless was jealous of Sharer and wanted her killed because she was involved in a lesbian love triangle with Loveless and another girl.\nBefore dawn on Jan. 11, 1992, they bludgeoned and sodomized the girl with a tire iron and sliced her legs with a knife, then drove around with the girl locked in the car’s trunk.\nHours later, they doused the girl with gasoline and burned her alive along a Jefferson County road, about 40 miles northeast of Louisville.\nOf the three others convicted in Sharer’s death – Hope Rippey, Laurie Tackett and Toni Lawrence – only Tackett remains in prison. Rippey was released last year, while Lawrence was released in 2000.\nSharer’s mother, Jacqueline Vaught, said Loveless should not be released from the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis before serving at least 30 years – that is half of her sentence, and what is required under state’s system of trimming one day for every day of good behavior in prison.\n“My child died from breathing the fumes of her own body burning,” said Vaught, who planned to attend Monday’s hearing. “If justice was served she’d serve the entire 60 years.”

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