Mother of 12-year-old slain in torture murder doubts killer will win early release

Jackie Vaught
Jackie Vaught
Shanda Sharer
Shanda Sharer
Melinda Loveless
Melinda Loveless

By Janelle MacDonald
WAVE 3 Investigator

MADISON, Ind. (WAVE) -- The woman who is serving time for one of the most brutal murders in our area, the torture and killing of 12-year-old Shanda Sharer, wants out of prison. On Thursday, Melinda Loveless and her lawyers told a judge she should be set free. WAVE 3 Janelle MacDonald was there for the court proceedings and heard arguments from both sides.

Now 32, Melinda Loveless took the stand Thursday to say she better understands now what she fessed up to and she shouldn't be held to her actions back then, when she was still in her teens.

But for Jacque Vaught, Shanda Sharer's mother, this hearing was one she dreaded. It was postponed in October, but on Dec. 6th, 2008, she faced her daughter's killer for the first time since the trial that ended with Loveless being sentenced to 60 years. "I dreaded even coming up here today. It was just horrible to even have to get ready."

For Vaught, it must have seemed in some ways, like she took a step backward in time. Fifteen years after she first made the trip from the Jefferson County jail to the courthouse, Loveless was once again back before a judge.

"I just want her to know that I'm there and that I'm there. My presence is there and I want to make her uncomfortable. I'm sorry but I just want to."

Loveless, through her lawyer, asked her original judge to take another look at her sentence for three primary reasons.

Argument One:
Loveless was too scared when she pleaded guilty to Shanda's murder to really know what she was doing -- and her lawyers didn't do a good job of explaining it.

Vaught disagrees. "She had a dream team. She had the best attorneys in the state."

Loveless' current attorney, Mark Small, says "she was scared because of the death penalty and I think that was the main thing that we had to establish."

Argument Two: 
Loveless' age when she made her plea.

Small says "Melinda Loveless was 16 at the time. She was not competent to enter into a contract in the state of Indiana."

But Jefferson County prosecutor Chad Lewis says that argument should have been raised years ago. "It should be considered waived by the court. They're bringing this up too late, and too much time has passed that unduly prejudices one of the parties, being the state, with evidence and witnesses not being available."

Argument Three:
Small says the entire Indiana penal code is unconstitutional, and says it requires the General Assembly to write laws that consider how an offender can be reformed, and lawmakers didn't do that.

"I believe that the state of Indiana is required to follow the constitution no less than its citizens are. No one, no one has ever argued that the penal code, which was completely reformulated in 1977, has ever been subjected to this test."

Vaught questions Small's motives. "I think Mr. Small is trying to make a name for himself. I think that he's reaching about as far as he could ever reach, and I don't think it's going to play out."

Vaught says she's confident her daughter's killer will stay in prison. Still, she says, it won't be enough: "justice will never be served. She could spend the rest of her life in prison, she could die in prison and justice will never be served because Shanda will never be alive."

keep in mind, the judge this time around is the same one who accepted loveless' original plea.

It will be several weeks before he makes his decision and when he does, either side could file an appeal.

Online Reporter: Janelle MacDonald

Online Producer: Michael Dever