|Date||April 11–12, 1981|
|Time||c. 9:30 pm – 2:00 am|
|Location||28 Keddie Resort Road,|
Keddie, California, U.S.
|Missing||Tina Sharp (remains recovered April 1984)|
The Keddie murders is an unsolved 1981 quadruple homicide in Keddie, California, a rural resort town in the Sierra Nevada. The victims were Glenna Susan "Sue" Sharp (née Davis; born March 29, 1945); daughter Tina Louise Sharp (born July 22, 1968); son, John Steven Sharp (born November 16, 1965); and John's friend, Dana Hall Wingate (born February 8, 1964).
The murders took place in house #28 of the Keddie Resort during the late evening of April 11, 1981 or early the following morning. The bodies of Sue, John, and Dana were found on the morning of April 12 by Sue's 14-year-old daughter, Sheila, who had been sleeping at a friend's house. 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. Several new leads were 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.
In July of 1979, 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 abusive 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 a small trailer formerly occupied by her brother at the Claremont Trailer Village in Quincy. The following fall, she moved to house #28 in the rural Sierra Nevada community of Keddie. The house was much larger than the trailer, and had become available when Plumas County's then-sheriff, Sylvester Douglas Thomas, moved out. 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 11:30 AM, Sue, Sheila, and Greg drove from their friends' house (the Meeks family) to pick up Rick, who was attending baseball tryouts at Gansner Field in Quincy. They happened upon John and his friend, Dana Hall Wingate (born February 8, 1964), hitchhiking at the mouth of the canyon from Quincy, California to Keddie, and picked them up, then going to Keddie, about 6 miles (9.7 km) away. Two hours later, around 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.
That same evening, Sheila had plans to spend the night with the Seabolt family, who lived in an adjacent home, while Sue remained at home with Rick, Greg, and the boys' young friend, Justin Smartt. Sheila departed house #28 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 #28 around 9:30 PM, after Sheila arrived at the Seabolts' to spend the night.
Murders and discovery
Around 7:00 AM on the morning of April 12, Sheila returned to #28 and discovered the dead bodies of Sue, John, and Dana in the house's living room. All three had been bound with medical tape and electrical cords. 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 was later contradicted. Upon discovering the scene, Sheila rushed back to the Seabolts' house, whereupon Jamie Seabolt retrieved Rick, Greg, and Justin through the bedroom window. He later admitted to having briefly entered the home 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 at roughly 30 degrees. 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, nude from the waist down and gagged with a blue bandana and her own panties, which had been secured with tape. She had been stabbed in the chest, her throat was stabbed horizontally, the wound going through her larynx and nicking her spine, and on the side of her head was an imprint matching the butt of a Daisy 880 Powerline BB/pellet rifle. John's throat was slashed. Dana had multiple head injuries and had been manually strangled to death. John and Dana suffered blunt-force trauma to their heads, caused by a hammer or hammers. Autopsies determined that Sue and John died from the knife wounds and blunt-force trauma, and Dana died by asphyxiation.
Sheila and the Seabolt family (with whom Sheila had spent the night in the neighboring home) heard no commotion during the night; a couple living in nearby house #16 was awakened at 1:15 AM by what sounded like muffled screaming. Tina's jacket, shoes, and a tool box containing various tools, were missing from the house, which showed no indication of forced entry. The house's telephone had been taken off the hook and the cord cut from the outlet, and the drapes were closed.
Martin Smartt, a neighbor and main suspect, claimed that a claw hammer had inexplicably gone missing from his home. Plumas County Sheriff Sylvester Thomas, who presided over the case, later stated 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 a green van parked at the Sharps' house around 9:00 PM.
Justin gave conflicting stories of the evening, including that he had dreamed details of the murders, though he later claimed to have actually witnessed them. In his later account of events, told under hypnosis, he claimed to have awoken to sounds coming from the living room while asleep in the bedroom with Rick and Greg. Investigating these sounds, he saw Sue with two men: one with a mustache and short hair, the other clean-shaven with long hair; both wore glasses. According to Justin, John and Dana then entered the home and began heatedly arguing with the men. A fight ensued, after which Tina entered the room, and was taken out of 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 Harlan Embry, a man with no artistic ability and no training in forensic sketching. It was never explained why, with access to the DOJ's and FBI's top forensic artists, law enforcement chose to use an amateur who sometimes volunteered to help Reno PD. 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, later told 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. About 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
Tina's disappearance was initially investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a possible abduction, though it was reported on April 29, 1981 that the FBI had "backed off" the search as the Department of Justice was 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 house was conducted with police canines, but the efforts were fruitless.
On April 22, 1984, 3 years and 11 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 that 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 discovered a blue nylon jacket, a blanket, 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 house 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 (erroniously reported as "John Boudee" by author Robert Scott)[a] 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 said he had personally interviewed Martin, and that Martin had 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, Martin had left Keddie and driven to Reno, Nevada shortly after the murders; 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."
In April 2018, Gamberg stated that DNA evidence recovered from a piece of tape at the crime scene matched that of a known living suspect.
- 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.
- "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. 73.
- 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.
- Newton 2009, p. 340.
- "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.
- 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 (ed.). 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 (ed.). Murders and Acquisitions: Representations of the Serial Killer in Popular Culture. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 181–202. doi:10.5040/9781628928211. ISBN 978-1-4411-7702-5.
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