A tragic crime involving lesbians is sensationalized on “Dr. Phil”


In 1992, 12-year-old Shanda Sharer was was brutally murdered by a group of teenage girls (ages 14-16) in New Albany, Indiana. The reason — well, if there is any reason to it at all — is that she was hanging out with another girl’s ex-girlfriend.

Yesterday, Shanda’s mom and sister appeared on Dr. Phil to confront two of the girls involved. The first was Hope Rippey, who lit Shanda on fire, sodomized her, cut her and brutally beat her for 10 hours until she died. Hope joined Toni Lawrence, Laurie Tackett and Melinda Loveless, the out lesbian who was driving the attack, in killing Shanda. Melinda had been dating Amanda Heavrin, until Amanda started hanging out with Shanda instead. Melinda blamed Shanda for Amanda leaving her, and Shanda’s mom blames Amanda for the murder happening at all, despite the fact that Amanda was not present when the girls abducted and killed Shanda.

Below are a few clips from the episode:

Shanda’s mom told Dr. Phil that Amanda is a “predator” who “molested my little girl.” The show depicted Melinda as being obsessed with Amanda, and Amanda obsessed with Shanda.

“Amanda was older than her. … They got into trouble together,” Shanda’s mom said, noting that Shanda had no friends and would do anything for some camaraderie. “Amanda was and is a lesbian, which Shanda didn’t even know her sexuality — she was 12. And I saw what she went through and I read a letter she wrote to Amanda and I know there was sexual activity between the two. … I know it was enough to devastate my child. … She changed her clothes, the way she dressed. [She] wouldn’t wear anything but loose clothing.”

“My daughter would still be alive if it weren’t for her,” she continued. “She’s the first link in the chain. Melinda told her ‘If you don’t stay away from Shanda, I will kill her.’ It all started when she met Amanda Heavrin. Her relationship with Amanda Heavrin is what made her the victim of this crime, because she was jealous of her relationship with Amanda Heavrin.”

Shanda’s sister said she found letters about sexual experiences in which Shanda apparently wrote, “‘That’s not what I like; you’re not a boy.’ Amanda was not going to get away from her. She was going to do whatever it took to get her. … I blame Amanda Heavrin.”

Amanda was interviewed one-on-one with Dr. Phil, but Shanda’s mom and sister watched on a monitor backstage. She appeared, as Dr. Phil noted, a bit smug when answering his questions but she said it was because she was upset about being called a child molester.

“You can’t molest somebody when she came to me first,” Amanda said. “I never came to Shanda like that. Shanda locked me in her bathroom and made the first move on me, not the other way around. She was seeing boys older than me. She knew what she was getting into. I didn’t do nothing to her that she didn’t want me to.”

With Shanda deceased and unable to tell her story, it’s hard to know what the nature of their relationship was. Still, I really wish Dr. Phil had asked Shanda’s family if they thought Amanda was a molester and a predator solely because she was a lesbian, because that’s how it came off. Dr. Phil is generally quite LGBT-friendly, so I was hoping he might attempt to help the family see past their hatred for Amanda and her relationship with their daughter — and what it might have meant for her sexuality — so that they could begin healing themselves.

Shanda’s mom referred to Shanda and Amanda’s intimacy as “whatever kind of sex she wants us to know about.” It was clear they did not want Shanda to be seen as a lesbian (or bisexual) and that she had fallen prey to Amanda’s lesbian agenda. Ultimately Amanda was not part of the murder, so she was not held responsible. I’m not saying she should be (or that she shouldn’t be) as she was clearly involved with the group of girls who committed the heinous crime, and later showed her the evidence. But on Dr. Phil it seemed she was being villainized for being gay.

In these situations, if you put a teenage boy in Amanda’s place, would Shanda’s parents have blamed him for the murder of their daughter by a jealous ex-girlfriend? I’m inclined to think not.

What happened to Shanda Sharer was horrific, but if viewers were reading between the lines yesterday, they gathered that lesbians are obsessive murderers who do anything to get what they want. Makes for good TV, but not so much for our visibility.

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