Four cases that prove there’s nothing more dangerous than teenagers.
The cruelty of teenage girls is well-documented. Movies like Heathers and Mean Girls took the concept of vicious teenagers to the mainstream. But stories about girls who torture and murder their friends have been a common staple in TV movies and books for generations. From Judy Blume’s ‘Blubber’ and Christy Masters in Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion to the book (and Lifetime spinoff) Dare Me and the movie Tragedy Girls, if you want a character to be evil, you’d best make them a teenage girl.
While there are plenty of artistic examples of killer cliques, do these stories have any basis in reality?
The Murder of Viktoria (Vika) Averina
In the summer of 2019, the body of Viktoria Averina was found at an abandoned building site in Arkhangelsk, Russia. She had been tortured before her death, and her face had been slashed with a jagged shard of glass.
Initially, investigators believed they were dealing with a depraved maniac, but they soon realized the suspect was someone far more insidious.
Before long, two 16-year-old classmates were arrested in connection to the gruesome murder. Named simply as “Lina and Irina” in the press due to their age, the girls reportedly openly admitted to the crime.
According to official reports, Averina had been targeted for being “too pretty”. In an interview, one state investigator said “According to the young girls, the victim thought she was more beautiful than her friends. During the police interrogation, the girls explained that the victim allegedly abused them because of this. […] They did not like such behavior [and the victim was] arrogant because of her bright and attractive face”.
The report went on to say the girls had lured Averina to the building site under some false pretext, then attacked her. They passed various instruments to each other to beat her before finally slashing her face with broken glass they found on the site.
The girls then returned home and “expressed horror” when the young woman’s body was found. After an initial investigation, they were taken into custody by the local authorities. If convicted, the pair could face only 15 years in prison due to their age at the time of the crime.
The Murder of Shanda Sharer
Shanda Sharer moved to New Albany, Indiana in 1991 after her parents divorced. She was 12 years old and active in school sports. She began her sixth-grade year in a new school and got into a fight with a girl named Amanda Heavrin. The two would end up getting detention together and became friends.
Amanda was 14 years old at the time and had just ended a relationship with a girl named Melinda Loveless. Melinda was 16 at the time and had grown up in a house of physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse. Her mother attempted suicide a handful of times and was repeatedly raped by Melinda’s father, sometimes in front of the children.
Their father also sexually abused his daughters and Melinda was fiercely loyal to him. Her father routinely beat his wife and children and was caught spying on Melinda and a friend during a sleepover. His wife attacked him over the incident and he moved out. By the time Melinda was 14, he told her he found a “new family” and severed contact after he remarried.
Melinda remained with her mother and experienced a deep depression after her father left. She began a relationship with Amanda Heavrin in 1990 and came out to her mother a few months later. Melinda’s mother was initially angry but came to accept her daughter’s news. The junior high relationship didn’t last, however, and the girls broke up in the fall of 1990.
The breakup between Melinda and Amanda coincided with the time Amanda and Shanda became friends. This timing suggested to Melinda that Amanda had left to pursue a new relationship with Sharer.
As time went on, Melinda became obsessed with the idea that Shanda had ruined her relationship and stolen her girlfriend. As her obsession grew, she began talking openly about threatening and killing Shanda. Her talk — and threats — intensified when Shanda and Amanda went to a local festival together in October of 1991. By the winter of 1991, Shanda’s parents saw Amanda as a bad influence and transferred her to a local private school. By December of 1991, Shanda and Amanda had drifted apart.
It is unclear if Melinda knew the girls had drifted apart over the winter. What is known is that by January of 1992, Melinda had a plan to exact revenge on the girl she saw as ruining her life: Shanda Sharer.
On January 10, 1992, three girls drove down to Melinda Loveless’ home in New Albany. Laurie Tackett was at the wheel. A recent friend to Loveless, Tackett had also survived a childhood marked by abuse and neglect. She had met Loveless only a few months before, but the two had become fast friends. Tackett brought along two other girls, her childhood friend Hope Rippey and a longtime friend of Rippey’s, Toni Lawrence.
Rippey and Lawrence had never met Loveless but they were close to Tackett and had only been told scant details of what was to happen. Loveless had presented the plan as simply wanting to scare Sharer and warn her not to mess with someone’s girlfriend. At the same time, Loveless mentioned thinking Shanda was pretty and was into the idea of hooking up. Whatever the motive, the girls had the impression they were going to scare someone a bit and have some (possibly mean spirited) fun.
The group drove to Shanda’s home and parked nearby. Loveless instructed Rippey and Lawrence to go to the door and introduce themselves to Shanda as a friend of Amber Heavrin. They were told to invite Shanda out to a place called “The Witch’s Castle” under the pretense of meeting up with Amanda. At first, Shanda turned them away, saying she couldn’t go anywhere with her parents still awake. She told the girls to come back closer to midnight when everyone would be asleep.
The girls returned, told Loveless what happened and agreed to come back later. The foursome crossed the river into Louisville and found a punk rock concert to attend at the Audubon Skate Park near Interstate 65. They had some fun and eventually decided to head back to Shanda’s house.
During the ride, Loveless spoke again about her excitement at the thought of killing Shanda; then she would suddenly change tracks and talk about how she wanted to have sex with Sharer and wanted to see if she could scare her with the knife.
By the time they arrived at Shanda’s, Toni Lawrence refused to have any part in luring Shanda out of her house. Instead, Hope Rippey joined Laurie Tackett as they approached the door. Melinda Loveless hid under a blanket in the back seat while holding onto the knife she had brought to “scare” Shanda.
As it turned out, the group didn’t need to worry about luring Shanda anywhere. She had been ready and waiting for them to return and happily snuck out of the house and joined them in the car.
The group headed toward Utica and Loveless wasted little time in pouncing from her hiding spot and putting the knife to Shanda’s neck. The group rode in a tense silence toward ‘The Witch’s Castle”, a local hangout spot. Once they arrived, they bound Sharer with rope from the car but were frightened by how often cars were driving past the spot. After some discussion, they agreed to move Shanda to another location near Tackett’s house in Madison, Indiana.
Lawrence and Rippey refused to leave the car once the group had pulled off onto a logging road. Loveless and Tackett left them behind and pulled Sharer out of the car. They began beating her and attempted to slit her throat but quickly realized the knife was too dull. They tried to hold her down while stabbing her but had a hard time controlling Shanda who was now fighting for her life.
Rippey came out of the car and held Shanda down while the other two took turns stabbing her in the chest. After stabbing her, they tied a rope around her throat and strangled her until she was unconscious. The girls loaded Shanda into the trunk and headed for Tackett’s home, which was nearby.
After the girls arrived, they began to clean up but soon heard Shanda screaming from the trunk. Tackett went out to the car with a kitchen knife and stabbed Shanda several more times. She returned to the house covered in blood and cleaned up for a second time. Later that night Tacket and Loveless went for a drive with Shanda still in the trunk. They heard Shanda gurgling and making noises. At one point, Tackett stopped the car and went to check the trunk. She found Shanda still “making noise” so she beat her with a tire iron until the girl was finally silent.
Tackett and Loveless returned home shortly before dawn and told the other two girls about the torture. The girls went to a gas station to fill their tank as well as an empty two-liter bottle of Pepsi. They pulled off onto a deserted stretch of road and pulled Shanda out of the trunk.
Shanda, who was reportedly still alive, was doused with gasoline and set on fire.
Tackett dropped off Lawrence and Rippey, then set to work cleaning the car with the help of Loveless. Toni Lawrence had been horrified by what had happened and quickly confided in a friend. That same morning, two brothers found Shanda’s remains and called the police. By that evening, Toni Lawrence took her story to the local authorities who immediately made the connection between her story and the remains found earlier that day.
In the end, all four girls were tried as adults. They also each accepted plea deals in an attempt to avoid the death penalty. Toni Lawrence was sentenced to 20 years and was released in 2000. Hope Rippey was given 60 years with a sentence reduction for mitigating circumstances and a further stipulation of ten years on medium supervision probation. After serving time on good behavior, she was released in 2006. Tackett and Loveless were each sentenced to sixty years for their roles in the grisly murder. Tackett was eventually released in 2019 at the age of 43 and Loveless was released in 2019.
The Murder of Skylar Neese
Skylar Neese was 16 years old, an honor student, and was working a job at Wendy’s with two of her friends. She was generally considered a “good kid” and kept out of trouble for the most part. She was, however, a typical teenager and dealt with her share of insecurities and friendship drama.
So when two friends got in touch about meeting up one night, she hesitated. Skylar had had a falling out with Sheila Eddy and Rachel Shoaf a few weeks before and the friendship was strained. Sheila and Rachel quickly won Skylar over, convincing her to join them for a late-night ride.
Around 12:30 am on July 6, 2012, Skylar snuck out of her window and jumped into Sheila’s car. The trio headed for a place they knew just over the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border. They had been there many times before as it was a favorite place to smoke weed and hang out. Once there, the three got out of the car and began chatting.
After a few minutes of chatting, Rachel and Sheila gave each other the signal they had agreed on earlier and began counting to three. Before Skylar even had time to ask what they were doing, the girls attacked her. The two girls had come prepared and pulled out kitchen knives they had hidden in their clothes before picking Skylar up that night.
Rachel and Sheila began hitting and stabbing Skylar. The three struggled and at some point, Skylar was able to wrestle the knife away from Shoaf for a moment. Skylar was able to run a few feet but was quickly tackled, and the girls continued their attack. Sheila continued to stab Skylar until, according to Rachel, “[Skylar]’s neck stopped making gurgling sounds.”
The girl attempted to bury Skylar’s body but soon realized the ground was too hard and rocky. Instead, they covered Skylar’s body with leaves, branches, and rocks before leaving her along the creek. Rachel and Sheila then cleaned up and went home.
When Skylar’s family reported she was missing, both Rachel and Sheila helped in the search for their friend. The girls spoke with investigators, telling them they had been with Skylar the night she disappeared. According to the girls, the three had hung out for a bit, and Skylar had returned home in the early morning hours. Investigators noted that Rachel and Sheila’s stories weren’t just similar — they were identical. They continued to question the girls but ultimately released them due to a lack of evidence.
In January of 2013, Rachel broke down and confessed to stabbing Skylar. She said Sheila had been there and had helped in the fatal attack. Investigators continued combing through the evidence they had and Rachel agreed to take them to Skylar’s remains.
As this was going on, Sheila was busy online, posting for Skylar’s birthday and expressing how broken-hearted she was over her friend’s disappearance. On the day the U.S. Attorney’s Office officially announced they had found the remains of Skylar, Sheila was quick to paint herself as a devastated best friend. In a series of tweets, she said Skylar would always be her best friend and that hearing the announcement was “the worst day of my whole life.”
On May 1, 2013, Rachel Shoaf turned herself in to local authorities and Sheila was arrested in a restaurant parking lot. Police used the evidence they had gathered as well as Sheila’s social media posts. One, in particular, seemed to corroborate part of what happened that night. Posted on April 1, 2013, the tweet simply read “We really did go on three.”
Both girls were tried as adults. Sheila Eddy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. She was sentenced to life in prison. Rebecca Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 2023 and has a projected release date set for April of 2028. Both women are housed in the Lakin Correctional Center in West Virginia.
The Murder of Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman
In 2019, Denali Brehmer developed an online relationship with a man named Tyler who said he was a reclusive millionaire living in Kansas. As the online relationship grew, they began sharing different ideas. According to Denali, she and Tyler began discussing “a plan to rape and murder someone in Alaska.”
Tyler overcame any initial reluctance in Denali by offering $9 million for footage — video and photographs — of the murder as it took place and the aftermath. The two discussed one option, but abandoned the idea and then settled on the one person who would trust Denali and be unlikely to fight back: Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman.
Denali and Cynthia “CeeCee” Hoffman lived in Anchorage, Alaska, and were long time friends. Court documents and people from the community consistently described the girls as “best friends.”
Denali recruited help from two other friends, 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh and 19-year-old Caleb Leyland, to help with the murder. She offered to cut them in on the payday if they would help kill CeeCee while Denali took pictures and video to send to Tyler.
On June 2, 2019, the trio invited CeeCee for a hike on a well-known path in Anchorage. According to Brehmer, the three of them agreed to tie each other up with duct tape and take pictures as a joke. Once CeeCee was bound and photographed, however, the girl began protesting loudly and demanded to be untied. Brehmer reported they cut off the tape, and CeeCee was still upset and threatened to call the police.
According to court documents, it was at that point one of them shot CeeCee in the back of the head and pushed her off a bridge and into the creek below. Afterward, they agreed to say they had “dropped her off at the park” and that was the last time they saw her. They later burned CeeCee’s purse and ID along with the gun they used in her murder.
CeeCee’s body was found several days later along the Thunderbird Falls Trail. It didn’t take long for investigators to begin questioning Brehmer. For her part, Denali also quickly realized she had been catfished and it wasn’t long before Trevor was revealed to be 21-year-old Darin Schilmiller of Indiana.
In the end, Denali and the two boys she recruited to help would be charged in the murder of their friend. Denali and Schilmiller would face more charges once it emerged he asked her to sexually assault young victims between the ages of 8 and 15 and send him the footage. According to reports, she complied and the footage was found by investigators on Schilmiller’s phone. This would lead to further charges of child pornography for both Brehmer and Schilmiller.
In January of 2020, the case was continued as the defense team was presented with 56 gigabytes — the equivalent of more than 100,000 pages — of evidence gathered from hard drives. The discovery hearing, originally scheduled for the spring of 2020, was delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As of October 2020, it has been rescheduled for December 15th.