INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly 28 years after 12-year-old Shanda Sharer was beaten, tortured and burned to death in rural Southern Indiana, the last of her four killers has been released from prison.

Staff from Indiana Women's Prison in Indianapolis confirmed that Melinda Loveless, 44, was released Thursday, after serving 26 years and eight months for the 1992 killing of Sharer.

Three other women who were also teens at the time of the murder have previously been released. Laurie Tackett, 45, was also sentenced to 60 years for the murder; she left Rockville Correctional Facility in January 2018 and is now serving parole with the Indianapolis Parole District.

Hope Rippey, 43, was released in 2006 from her 35-year murder sentence and Toni Lawrence, charged with 20 years for a class B felony for criminal confinement, was released in 2002. Loveless, Tackett and Rippey all also received the 20-year criminal confinement sentence.

News and Tribune archives show that then-16-year-old Loveless was the ringleader when on Jan. 10, 1992, the four girls went to Sharer's father's house in Jeffersonville and lured her into a car by telling her that they were going to take her to a location where her girlfriend would be meeting them later.

Loveless, who had dated that girl before Sharer, had previously said she had wanted to scare the victim. But that would soon turn fatal. For around nine hours, Sharer was driven around Clark, Floyd and Jackson counties, as she was bound, beaten and eventually burned. Her body was found the following day north of Madison.

In 2008, a Jefferson County judge denied Loveless's motion to have her conviction overturned. Her attorney for that post-conviction relief, Mark Smallwood of Indianapolis, told the News and Tribune in late 2007 that Loveless had been too young to understand her plea agreement to the murder, and that she had entered it based on "exaggerations" of the death penalty by the prosecution and trial attorneys.

Sharer's mother, Jacque Vaught, did not return a message by press time. Sharer's father, Steve, died in 2005.

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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