Victims, clockwise: Sue Sharp, John Sharp, Dana Wingate, and Tina Sharp
|Date||April 11–12, 1981|
|Time||c. 9:30 pm – 2:00 am|
|Location||28 Spanish Oaks Lane,|
Keddie, California, U.S.
|Missing||Tina Sharp (remains recovered April 1984)|
The Keddie Murders is an unsolved 1981 American quadruple homicide that occurred in Keddie, a rural resort town in the Sierra Nevada of northern California. The victims were Glenna Susan "Sue" Sharp (née Davis; born March 29, 1945); her son, John Steven Sharp (born November 16, 1965); daughter Tina Louise Sharp (born July 22, 1968); and John's friend, Dana Hall Wingate (born February 8, 1964).
The murders took place in Cabin 28 of the Keddie Resort during the late evening of April 11, 1981, or early the following morning, and the bodies of Sue, John, and Dana were found on the morning of April 12 by Sue's 14-year-old daughter, Sheila. Sue's two younger sons, Rick and Greg, as well as their friend Justin Smartt, were also in the house, but were unharmed. Tina was missing from the scene.
Tina remained a missing person until April 1984 when her skull and several other bones were recovered at Camp Eighteen, California, near Feather Falls in Butte County. Multiple leads and suspects were examined in the intervening years, though no charges were filed. In 2004, the cabin in which the murders occurred was demolished. Subsequent sheriffs in Plumas County would state that the initial investigation was disorganized and poorly conducted, resulting in the overlooking of crucial evidence. Several new leads have been announced in the 21st century, including the discovery of a hammer in a pond in 2016, as well as announcements regarding the discovery of new DNA evidence.
The Keddie murders have received national media attention, including coverage in People magazine, an Investigation Discovery documentary series, and an independent 2008 feature documentary titled Cabin 28. Renewed public interest in the case was sparked in-part by the release of the 2008 horror film The Strangers, which various internet bloggers theorized was inspired by the Keddie murders; despite slight similarities, the film made no such claims to having been based on the crimes.
In the fall of 1980,[a] Glenna Susan "Sue" Sharp (née Davis; born March 29, 1945 in Springfield, Massachusetts), along with her five children, left her home in Connecticut after separating from her husband, James Sharp. She decided to relocate to northern California, where her brother Don was residing at the time. Upon arriving in California, she began renting Cabin 28 at the Keddie Resort in the rural Sierra Nevada community of Keddie. There, she resided with her 15-year-old son, John (born November 16, 1965); 14-year-old daughter Sheila; 12-year-old daughter Tina (born July 22, 1968); and two younger sons, Rick (age 10) and Greg (age 5).
On April 11, 1981, around 1:30 pm, Sue and Sheila drove from Keddie to pick up John and his friend Dana Hall Wingate (born February 8, 1964) from Gansner Park in Quincy, California and brought them back to Keddie, approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) away. Two hours later, at approximately 3:30 pm, John and Dana hitchhiked back to Quincy, where they may have had plans to visit friends. Around this time, the two were seen in the city's downtown area. A local woman, Donna Williams, claimed to have picked them up in front of a tires store and given them a ride down the road to another friend's home. The two were later seen attending a party at Oakland Camp in Quincy.
That same evening, Sheila had plans to spend the night with the Seabolt family who lived in an adjacent cabin, while Sue remained at home with Rick, Greg, and the boys' young friend, Justin Smartt. Sheila departed the home shortly after 8:00 pm, leaving her mother alone with the younger children. Tina, who had been watching television at the Seabolts', returned home to the cabin around 9:30 pm after Sheila arrived to spend the night.
Murders and discovery
—Plumas County Patrol Commander Rod DeCrona describing the crime scene
At approximately 7:00 am on the morning of April 12, Sheila returned home and discovered the dead bodies of Sue, John, and Dana in the cabin's living room. All three had been bound with adhesive tape and wire. Tina was absent from the home, while the three younger children—Rick, Greg, and Justin—were unharmed in an adjacent bedroom. Initial reports stated that the three young boys had slept through the incident, though this would later be contradicted. Upon discovering the scene, Sheila rushed back to the Seabolts' cabin, whereupon James Seabolt retrieved Rick, Greg, and Justin through the bedroom window. He would later admit to having briefly entered the cabin through the back door to see if anyone was still alive, potentially contaminating evidence in the process.
The murders of Sue, John, and Dana were notably vicious: two bloodied knives and one hammer were found at the scene, and one of the knives (a steak knife later determined to have been used in the murders) had been bent in half due to extreme force. Blood spatter evidence from inside the house indicated that the murders of Sue, John, and Dana had all taken place in the living room.
Sue was discovered lying on her side near the living room sofa, and was nude from the waist down. She had been gagged with a blue bandana and her own panties, which had been secured on her face with tape. In addition to suffering stab wounds to her chest, her throat had also been slashed, and an imprint matching the butt of a Daisy 880 BB gun was found on the side of her head. John had also had his throat slashed, while Dana had suffered multiple head injuries and been manually strangled. All three victims had blunt-force trauma to their heads, later determined to have been caused by a hammer or hammers. Autopsies undertaken several days later in Sacramento County determined that each had died as a result of multiple knife wounds and blunt-force trauma.
Upon interviewing Sheila and the Seabolt family (with whom Sheila had spent the night in the neighboring cabin), law enforcement found that none had heard any commotion during the hours the crime had taken place. However, another couple who resided nearby reported waking around 1:30 am to what sounded like muffled screaming, but were unable to decipher where it was coming from and soon fell back asleep. When inventorying the Sharp cabin for missing items, Sheila was able to determine that Tina's jacket, shoes, as well as a shoebox containing various tools, were absent. The Sharp cabin showed no indication of forced entry, though detectives did recover an unidentified fingerprint from a handrail on the stairs leading to the cabin's back door. The cabin's telephone had been left off the hook, and all of the lights had been shut off as well as the drapes closed.
Law enforcement interviewed several potential suspects, including one man who disappeared from Keddie shortly after the murders and was later found in Oregon. After submitting to a polygraph examination, the suspect was cleared. One of the Sharps' neighbors, Marilyn Smartt (mother of Justin), would later claim she had found a bloody jacket belonging to Tina in her basement and had turned it in to police, though no official record of this exists. Her husband, Martin Smartt, also claimed that a claw-hammer had inexplicably gone missing from his home. Plumas County Sheriff Doug Thomas, who presided over the case, would later state that Martin had provided "endless clues" in the case that seemed to "throw the suspicion away from him." In addition to interviewing the Smartts, detectives interviewed numerous other locals and neighbors; several, including members of the Seabolt family, recalled seeing an unknown green van parked at the Sharps' cabin around 9:00 pm. Others recalled noticing a brown Datsun parked at the residence that evening, which appeared to have a tire that was going flat.
In interviews, Justin told detectives conflicting stories of the evening, including that he had dreamt details of the murders, though he later claimed to have actually witnessed them. In his latter account of events, told under hypnosis by Dr. Jerry Dash, a psychologist at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Justin claimed to have heard unusual sounds coming from the living room while watching television in the bedroom with Rick and Greg. Upon investigating the sounds, he witnessed Sue with two men: one with a mustache and long hair, the other clean-shaven with short hair; both wore glasses. According to Justin, John and Dana then entered the home and began heatedly arguing with the men, resulting in a fight that spiraled into violence. Tina purportedly entered the room during the altercation, and was taken out the cabin's back door by one of the men.
Based on Justin's descriptions, composite sketches of the two unknown men were produced by forensic artist Harlan Embry. In press releases accompanying the sketches, the suspects were described as being in their late-20s to early-30s; one stood between 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m) to 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) tall with dark blonde-hair, and the other between 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m) and 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) with black greased hair. Both wore gold-framed sunglasses.
Rumors regarding the crimes being ritualistic or motivated by drug trafficking were dismissed by Plumas County Sheriff Doug Thomas, who stated in the week following the murders that no drug paraphernalia or illegal drugs were found in the home. Carla McMullen, a family acquaintance, would later tell detectives that Dana Wingate had recently stolen an unknown quantity of LSD from local drug dealers, though she was unable to provide proof of this claim. Approximately 4,000 man-hours were spent working the case, which Thomas described as "frustrating." In December 1983, detectives ruled out serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole as potential suspects.
Recovery of Tina Sharp's remains
Because it was believed that Tina had been abducted from the crime scene, her disappearance was initially investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), though it was reported on April 29, 1981 that the FBI had "backed off" the search as the Department of Justice were doing an "adequate job" and "made the FBI's presence unnecessary." A grid pattern search of the area covering a 5-mile (8.0 km) radius around the cabin was conducted with police canines, but the efforts were fruitless.
On April 22, 1984—three years and eleven days after the murders and Tina's disappearance—a bottle collector discovered a cranium portion of a human skull and part of a mandible at Camp Eighteen near Feather Falls in neighboring Butte County, a distance of roughly 100 miles (160 km) from Keddie. Shortly after announcing the discovery, Butte County Sheriff's Office received an anonymous call which identified the remains as belonging to Tina, but the call was not documented in the case. A recording of this call was found at the bottom of an evidence box at some point after 2013 by a deputy who was assigned the case. The remains were confirmed by a forensic pathologist to be those of Tina Sharp in June 1984. Near the remains, detectives also found a child's blanket, a blue nylon jacket, a pair of Levi Strauss jeans with a missing back pocket, and an empty surgical tape dispenser.
In 1996, Robert Joseph Silveria, Jr. was examined as a potential suspect in the murders. The cabin in which the murders occurred was demolished in 2004. In a 2008 documentary on the murders, Marilyn Smartt claimed that she suspected her husband Martin and his friend John "Bo" Boubede (sometimes reported as "John Boudee")[b] were responsible for the murders of Sue, John, Dana, and Tina. Marilyn claimed that on the evening of the crimes, she had left Martin and Boubede at a local bar around 11:00 pm and returned home to go to sleep. Around 2:00 am on April 12, she stated she awoke to find the two burning an unknown item in the wood stove. Additionally, she alleged that Martin "hated Johnny Sharp with a passion." However, in the 2008 documentary, Sheriff Doug Thomas told the filmmakers he had personally interviewed Martin, and confirmed he had successfully passed a polygraph examination. Martin Smartt died of cancer in Portland, Oregon in June 2000. John Boubede, who allegedly had ties to organized crime in Chicago, died there in 1988.
On March 24, 2016, a hammer matching the description of the hammer Martin claimed to have lost was discovered in a local pond and taken into evidence by Plumas County Special Investigator Mike Gamberg. Plumas County Sheriff Hagwood—who was 16-years-old at the time of the murders and knew the Sharp family personally—stated: "the location it was found... It would have been intentionally put there. It would not have been accidentally misplaced." Gamberg also stated that at that time, six potential suspects were being examined. In a 2016 article published by The Sacramento Bee detailing the discovery of the hammer, it was also revealed that shortly after the murders, Martin had left Keddie and driven to Reno, Nevada; from there, he sent a letter to Marilyn ruminating on personal struggles in their marriage, which he concluded with: "I’ve paid the price of your love & now I’ve bought it with four people’s lives." In a 2016 interview, Gamberg stated that the letter was "overlooked" in the initial investigation and never admitted as evidence. He later criticized the quality of the initial investigation, saying: "You could take someone just coming out of the academy and they’d have done a better job." A counselor whom Martin regularly visited would also allege that he had admitted to the murders of Sue and Tina, but claimed "I didn't have anything to do with [the boys]." He allegedly told the counselor that Tina was killed to prevent her from identifying him as she had "witnessed the whole thing."
The 2008 horror film The Strangers—which detailed the ambush of a couple in a rural vacation home by three masked assailants—brought renewed interest to the case resulting from internet bloggers who drew comparisons between the events depicted in the film and the Keddie murders. However, the film made no claims to the events, and was only vaguely marketed as having been "inspired by true events." The same year, an independent documentary film chronicling the murders, titled Cabin 28, was released.
- Some sources state the family moved into the cabin in October 1980 while others state November 1980.
- Several news sources use the name "John Boubede," though Robert Scott claims in his book Masters of True Crime: Chilling Stories of Murder and the Macabre (2012) that this was the result of a reporting error, and that his name was in fact John Boudee, and that he went by the nickname "Bo."
- Newton 2009, pp. 339–340.
- Plumas County News Staff (April 27, 2018). "Keddie murders revisited part 2: Following the clues". Plumas County News. Archived from the original on April 27, 2018. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- Newton 2009, p. 340.
- Scott 2012, p. 73.
- Lopez, Tony (May 2, 2016). "35 Years Later, New Clues May Solve Keddie Murder Mystery". CBS Sacramento. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- "Obituaries". Feather River Bulletin. Quincy, California. April 22, 1981. p. 22 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Inside the Search for the Keddie Cabin Killers 35 Years After a Family Was Slaughtered". Yahoo!. November 28, 2016. Archived from the original on November 29, 2016. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
- Truesdell, Jeff (November 25, 2016). "A Daughter's 35-Year Fight For Justice: Sheila Sharp Longs to Know Who Murdered Her Family in Their Cabin". People. Archived from the original on November 28, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- Newton 2009, p. 339.
- "Tina Louise Sharp, 11 Apr 1981". California Death Index, 1940-1997. Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento, California – via Ancestry.com.
- Truesdell, Jeff (November 22, 2016). "5 Things to Know about the Keddie Cabin Murders — and the New Hunt for the Killers". People. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
- Scott 2012, p. 74.
- "Plumas County Sheriff seeks pair in Keddie tripple slaying". Lassen County Times. Susanville, California. May 27, 1981. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- Scott 2012, p. 75.
- Simpson 2013, p. 183.
- Pack, Cynthia (September 14, 1994). "13-year-old Keddie murders still plague sheriff". Feather River Bulletin. Quincy, California. p. 10A – via Newspapers.com.
- Snow, Mary; Moller, David (April 15, 1981). "Triple slaying in Keddie". Feather River Bulletin. Quincy, California. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- Corona, Marcello (April 13, 2016). "Investigator closer to solving Keddie murders". Reno Gazette Journal. Reno, Nevada. p. 4A – via Newspapers.com .
- Metcalf, Victoria (May 12, 2018). "Plumas County's Keddie murders revisited — Part III". Lassen County Times. Archived from the original on August 4, 2018. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- "The State". Los Angeles Times. April 14, 1981. p. 2 – via Newspapers.com.
- Metcalf, Victoria (April 13, 2018). "Keddie murders revisited part 1: New evidence discovered links living suspect to grisly scene". Plumas County News. Archived from the original on April 15, 2018. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
- Scott 2012, p. 78.
- Moller, David (April 22, 1981). "Tina Sharp still missing". Feather River Bulletin. Quincy, California. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Plumas triple murder investigation continues". Reno Gazette-Journal. Reno, Nevada. April 15, 1981. p. 22 – via Newspapers.com.
- Keller, David (April 25, 2001). "The Keddie Murders: 20 years have passed since four lives were taken in a brutal slaying". Westwood Pine Press. Westwood, California – via Newspapers.com.
- "Murder case labeled 'frustrating'". Feather River Bulletin. Quincy, California. June 10, 1981. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Sheriff seeks pair for questioning in Keddie murder investigation". Feather River Bulletin. Quincy, California. May 27, 1981. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Two ruled out in Keddie Case". Feather River Bulletin. Quincy, California. December 21, 1983. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Tina Sharp feared dead". Feather River Bulletin. Quincy, California. April 29, 1981. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- Moller, David (June 27, 1984). "Fourth victim found in slaying". Feather River Bulletin. Quincy, California. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- Keller, David H. (March 21, 1996). "Multiple murder suspect used to manage Chester Airport". Lassen County Times. Susanville, California. p. 21A – via Newspapers.com.
- Little, Jane Braxton (May 7, 2016). "New evidence revives Plumas County quadruple murder case". The Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on October 16, 2017. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
- Scott 2012, p. 79.
- Vongsarath, Chris (July 18, 2008). "Campbell teachers captivated by the tragic story of 'Cabin 28'". The Mercury News. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
- People Staff (December 1, 2016). "People Magazine Investigates After Show: How Solving Keddie Murders Is 'Personal' for Investigators". People. Archived from the original on December 21, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- Newton, Michael (2009). The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes. New York: Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1-438-11914-4.
- Scott, Robert (2012). "Nightmare on Spanish Creek". In Flowers, R. Barri. Masters of True Crime: Chilling Stories of Murder and the Macabre. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 73–81. ISBN 978-1-616-14567-5.
- Simpson, Philip L. (2013). "'There's Blood on the Walls': Serial Killing as Post-9/11 Terror in The Strangers". In Alzena MacDonald. Murders and Acquisitions: Representations of the Serial Killer in Popular Culture. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 181–202. doi:10.5040/9781628928211. ISBN 978-1-4411-7702-5.
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