Judge denies Loveless' request for early release in torture-killing

Melinda Loveless, convicted murderer
Melinda Loveless, convicted murderer
Shanda Sharer, murder victim
Shanda Sharer, murder victim
Jacque Vaught, Shanda's mother
Jacque Vaught, Shanda's mother

By Janelle MacDonald
WAVE 3 Investigator

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- The ringleader in the brutal torture and murder of 12 year old Shanda Sharer will not be getting out of prison. A judge Tuesday denied Melinda Loveless' request. WAVE 3 Investigator Janelle MacDonald has been following this latest step in Loveless' case.

Melinda Loveless has served only 15 years of her 60 year sentence for that gang attack and murder of Shanda Sharer. If she had her way, she wouldn't serve another day. Her arguments went like this: she was too young, too scared of the death penalty to be held to her plea, plus Indiana's murder statute is unconstitutional.

Judge Ted Todd didn't see it that way and Shanda's mother, Jacque Vaught, couldn't be more relieved.

She says, "I told somebody just a little while ago, this is my Christmas present."

Vaught hasn't had a lot to smile about this holiday season.

She says, "This has been extremely stressful with the holidays."

Vaught has been anxiously awaiting Judge Todd's ruling on the future of Melinda Loveless. She learned long ago, when another judge set free Loveless' co-defendant Hope Rippey, to expect the unexpected.

Vaught says, "I would have laid my life that wouldn't happen. You just don't know. You never second guess what a judge will do until they've done it."

So the best way to describe her feelings Tuesday is relief. Daughter Shanda's killer won't be leaving prison. Vaught says, "I think I'm pretty much done dealing with this except for they will I'm sure will appeal this issue."

Loveless' attorney, Mark Small told WAVE 3, you can count on it.

He says, "We'll be filing a notice of appeal. I feel we have very strong grounds."

His strongest argument, he thinks is Loveless' age when she made the plea.

He says, "You had a 16 year old child who signed a contract and she couldn't have signed a contract if she was going into a department store to purchase goods ... And here we're dealing with people's liberty interests, their rights."

Jacque Vaught understands the arguments, she just doesn't think it will be enough to throw out Loveless' plea.

Jefferson County, Indiana prosecutor Chad Lewis told WAVE 3 Tuesday this is really the last ditch in the efforts to get Loveless out of prison early. He says once the appeal is finished, she should stay behind bars and he's pleased with the judge's ruling.

Small says there are actually several other things he might try if he is not successful on appeal. It's those type of legal arguments that put an emotional cloud over Vaught.

She says, "Recovery for me is just living each day without being reminded of everything."

In the past 16 years, she's had mixed success doing that when it comes to the unimaginable task of living with the brutal torture and murder of her 12 year old daughter, Shanda.

She says normally, "Although I think of everything every day, it's not in a bad way. I try and every day think about good memories and of course I talk to Shanda every day."

Loveless' latest efforts to get out of prison early changed that.

Vaught says, "When things like this come up, you are forced to deal with the bad memories."

She says she's never wanted anything more than for Loveless to serve her sentence. Loveless' lawyer says there are other issues.

Small says, "We have a situation where statutes should be followed and the constitution of the state should be followed and those are really important interests too."

Vaught, for now, is just savoring Tuesday's ruling. "This is going to help me to get back on track and remember all the good things and not have to think about the bad."

Her reaction after getting word: "I have a picture of her (Shanda) in my car and I just when I got in the car, I was like, 'we did it,' you know."

Online Reporter:  Janelle MacDonald

Online Producer: Charles Gazaway