If you?re like me, living out in the wilderness where the water and trees are your playgrounds sounds magical. Your neighbors are few, but they love the loneliness and tranquility of nature as much as you do.
In 1980, the Sharp family ? 36-year-old Glenna ?Sue?, her 15-year-old son John, 14-year-old daughter Sheila, 12-year-old daughter Tina, and 10-year-old Rick and five-year-old Greg ? moved from Connecticut to Keddie, California, in the northern part of the state, after Sue and her husband separated. The family settled into Cabin 28 at the Keddie resort.
The Sharp family ? Source: People.com
Times were tough for the Sharp family. Sue supported her family on a paltry $250 monthly check she received from the Navy (her husband was a veteran), food stamps, and a stipend she received for being enrolled in a federal education program.
But the Sharp children had plenty to do, despite owning few material things. In the summer, especially, a nearby pond and a river provided plenty of refreshing entertainment.
Cabin 28, where the Sharps lived Source: People.com
This was to be a fresh start for the family and a sort of rebirth for Sue. But instead of being a little slice of Heaven, Cabin 28 would turn out to be the threshold of Hell for the Sharp family, and the town of Keddie would forever lose its reputation as a breathtakingly beautiful respite for people seeking peace, fresh air, and solace in the arms of Mother Nature.
There was nothing unusual about April 21, 1981.
It was a day like any other, a typical Tuesday, and Sheila Sharp, then 14, planned to spend the night next-door with a friend. John planned to travel to Quincy that evening with his friend Dana Wingate, 17, then return to cabin 28 to relax in his bedroom in the basement. Tina headed to cabin 27 to watch TV but returned to cabin 28 around 10 p.m.
Cabin 26, home of Martin and Marilyn Smartt, and Justin Eason ? Source: Plumas News
Sue had agreed to let Ricky and Greg have their friend, 12-year-old Justin Eason, spend the night at their cabin. Justin hadn?t lived in Keddie for long. He, along with his mother and stepfather, Marilyn and Martin ?Marty? Smartt, rolled into town in November 1980. The family lived near the Sharps, in cabin 26.
Around 7:45 a.m. the next morning, Sheila returned from her sleepover to discover a horrific scene. Her eyes struggled to adjust and her mind fought to comprehend the macabre display before her. On the living room floor lay three bloody, brutalized bodies ? her mother, her brother John, and John?s friend, Dana. The trio was attacked so violently, so viciously, that blood spatter dotted the ceiling.
Miraculously, it appeared that 10-year-old Rick, five-year-old Greg, and the boys? friend, Justin Eason, had slept through the ordeal in an adjoining bedroom and were clueless as to what had happened.
Twelve-year-old Tina Sharp was nowhere to be found.
Panicked, Sheila fled her family?s home and ran back to the neighbor?s house. Her friend?s father retrieved the boys through the bedroom window so they wouldn?t see the carnage in the living room.
Law enforcement began arriving at cabin 28 shortly after 8 a.m. John was found parallel and close to the front door. A cheap steak knife was found to the left of his body. The attack had been so brutal that the blade was bent at a 25-degree angle. Police also discovered a butcher knife and a hammer* side-by-side on a small wooden table near the entry to the kitchen.
John Sharp, Tina Sharp, Dana Wingate, and Sue Sharp ? Source: Plumas News
Two feet away and parallel to John?s body lay Dana Wingate, his head resting on the corner of a sofa cushion. Sue?s body was found adjacent to Dana?s. She was on her right side and she was covered with a blanket and sheet that were later revealed to be from Tina?s bed.
John?s hands were bound by white cloth medical tape and his ankles were bound by a white extension cord. Dana?s feet had been bound, but it appeared his bindings had either been cut or he somehow managed to free himself.
Sue?s wrists and ankles were loosely wrapped in narrow medical tape, with an electrical cord wrapped tightly around that. Her wrists and ankles were wrapped a third time by an even stronger electrical cord, which extended to and tightly bound her ankles. Her legs and knees were drawn up towards her chest because another length of cord between her ankles and wrist was so taut. She was gagged with her own panties and a bandana, and several lengths of medical tape were applied on top of them.
Sue and John had been stabbed, and Sue was also bludgeoned with a Daisy Powerline 880 rifle. Both of their throats had been cut. Dana had been strangled and bludgeoned with another object. All of the victims had been beaten with a claw hammer* and stabbed multiple times.
There was no sign that robbery was the motive, as nothing was missing and the cabin hadn?t been ransacked. It immediately became obvious that someone had entered cabin 28 intending to murder someone. It was a targeted crime, one that was deeply personal. There were also no signs of forced entry, which suggested the victims knew their killers.
Cabin 28 ? Source: The Sacramento Bee
The house was so covered in blood that investigators thought it possible that the victims had been moved and rearranged from the positions in which they were murdered. This theory was strengthened by the fact that the victims? shoes, Sue?s bare feet, the bedding in Tina?s room, the furniture, and the back steps were all stained with blood.
Sheila desperately tried to tell the police that Tina was missing, but it took law enforcement several hours to believe her and realize that she was telling them the truth.
Tina Sharp ? Source: Investigation Discovery
It would be three years before Tina?s remains were discovered about 30 miles from Keddie. In 1984, the cranium section of her skull was found. When law enforcement conducted another search of the area, they found a jawbone and several other bones, which tests confirmed belonged to Tina.
Martin ?Marty? Smartt ? Source: Plumas News
Almost immediately, two suspects were identified in the case. The first was Martin ?Marty? Smartt, the stepfather of Justin Eason and the Sharps? neighbor from just a few doors down, in cabin 26. The second suspect was a man named John Boubede (pronounced ?bow-buh-DAY?), who went by ?Bo.?
Both men had criminal histories but Bo?s background was particularly disturbing. He had been involved in organized crime in Chicago and had done time for robbing a bank. Marty, a Vietnam veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The two met shortly before the murders at a VA hospital and Bo had been staying with the Smartts as a houseguest.
John ?Bo? Boubede ? Source: Plumas News
Marty, it seems, was an abusive husband, and Sue had been encouraging his wife, Marilyn, to leave him. The men were seen at the bar the night before the massacre wearing suits and ties and behaving strangely.
Curiously, Marty later told the police that he was missing a hammer*.
On the night of April 21, Marty claimed that he and his wife, Marilyn, decided to go to the Back Door Bar for drinks, where Marty worked as a chef. It was his night off. On the way there, the couple stopped at cabin 28 to ask Sue if she wanted to go have a few drinks with them. Sue declined, so Marty and Marilyn left for the bar without her.
At the bar, Marty was unhappy with the music being played and he angrily confronted the manager about it. Marty and Marilyn left the bar shortly thereafter and went back to their cabin, where they watched television before going to bed.
The Back Door Bar ? Source: Plumas News
But for some reason, the music at the bar still had Marty fired up, so he called the bar to complain to the manager again. Then, Marty and Bo went back to the bar for more drinks.
When investigators spoke with Marilyn Smartt, she told them that she and Marty separated the day after the murders, and called Marty short-tempered, violent, and abusive. When Marilyn was investigated again at a later date, she informed investigators that Marty hated John Sharp and that she saw Martin burning something in the fireplace on the morning of April 22.
Investigators also interviewed a man who used to live in cabin 28 but moved out two weeks before the Sharps moved in. He claimed not to know the Sharps, but he said that three weeks before the massacre, he overheard Sue and an unknown man arguing loudly. The two allegedly continued to scream obscenities back and forth at each other for another 30 minutes before the argument finally ended.
Early on, investigators believed that Justin Eason either knew more than he was telling the police, or he had blocked out most of his memories due to the trauma of seeing the attack. They also suspected that Justin touched at least one of the bodies since blood was found on the inside doorknob of the bedroom the boys were staying in.
It?s safe to assume that if Marty was the violent, short-tempered person Marilyn described him to be, then Justin would be fearful of his step-father. So, if he knew anything, it makes sense that he would have kept it to himself or blocked it out of his mind.
Investigators were mystified as to how the boys could have slept through the attack in the first place. A woman and her boyfriend in the cabin next-door awoke around 1:30 a.m. to the sounds of muffled screams. The two got up and looked around, but couldn?t tell where the screams were coming from, so they went back to bed. How could the boys have heard nothing?
But it?s likely that Justin, if none of the other boys, did see the massacre.
In one interview, Justin described having a dream in which he was on a boat and he saw John and Dana fighting with a man with long black hair, a mustache, and glasses. He was carrying a hammer*. The man first threw John overboard, followed by Dana, who was very drunk.
He further told investigators he dreamed that he saw a body covered in a sheet, lying on the bow. When he picked up the sheet, he found the body of Sue with a knife protruding from her chest. He desperately tried to patch her wound with a rag, which he then tossed into the water.
In fact, Sue did have a knife sticking out of her chest when the police found her.
During a polygraph test, Justin stated that he thought he might have witnessed the murders. He was woken up by a noise, he said, so he got up and looked through the door to the living room and saw Sue lying on the sofa with two men standing in the middle of the room.
Justin recalled that one of the men wore black and dark glasses, and the other man had brown hair and was wearing army boots. John and Dana came into the room and started arguing with the men, which led to a fight. Dana attempted to escape through the kitchen, but the brown-haired man struck him with a hammer*.
During the commotion, Tina allegedly emerged holding a blanket and asked what was going on. The man with the black hair sliced her down the middle of her chest using a pocket knife, Justin claimed.
Source: The Crime Files
Justin described the men to a sketch artist, who was able to create a composite sketch of the suspects.
Over the weeks, months, and years, Justin alternated between saying he had witnessed the massacre, and saying he had only dreamed about them. Perhaps he was too afraid to admit the truth, or perhaps even Justin didn?t know for sure what was true and what was a figment of his imagination.
The Prevailing Theory
Good Advice Gone Bad
So, as we already know, one of the predominant theories is that Sue Sharp was encouraging Marilyn Smartt to leave her husband, Marty, which enraged Marty to the point of murder, so he called on Bo Boubede to help.
Telling someone to leave their abusive spouse is always the right advice, but depending on how crazed that spouse is, you could be taking your own life in your hands by speaking your mind.
This theory is the only one with any teeth, and it was cemented as the predominant theory after what occurred in 2000. That was the year Marty Smartt died. Shortly after his death, his therapist told the Plumas County Sherriff?s office that Marty confessed to him that he killed Sue because she was trying to convince Marilyn to leave him. However, Marty never mentioned John, Dana, or Tina.
Marty also told the therapist that it was easy to beat the polygraph test and that he was pals with Plumas County Sherriff Doug Thomas. They were so close that Thomas even let Marty move in with him at one point.
Source: The Sacramento Bee
In the spring of 2016, a hammer* matching the description of the one Marty claimed to have lost was found, and Plumas County Sherriff Hagwood stated that ?the location it was found? It would have intentionally been put there. It would not have been accidentally misplaced.? This was a different hammer* than the one originally found at the crime scene.
Even if outrage over Sue?s advice to Marilyn wasn?t the motive for the murders, Marty and Bo were cemented as the top suspects when Marty said something that incriminated himself ? something unintentional, a slip of the tongue. In one interview with investigators, Marty said that Justin might have seen something the night of the murders ?without me detecting him.?
Marty and Sue may have been having an affair, it is alleged, and this may have been another reason why Sue was encouraging Marilyn to leave Marty.
This makes sense, considering Marilyn left Marty the day after the murders.
Also, following the murders, Marty wrote Marilyn a letter that read:
?I?ve paid the price for your love & now that I?ve bought it with four peoples lives, you tell me we are through. Great! What else do you want??
Sloppy Police Work, or a Cover-Up?
One thing everyone recently involved with the case agrees on is that law enforcement botched the investigation pretty severely.
Firstly, Marty was eliminated as a suspect after passing a polygraph. As I said earlier, Marty had remarked about how easy it was to fool the test. Also, we now know that polygraphs are unreliable, which is why even though they might give the police a better idea of who is being truthful with them and who is not, their results are inadmissible in court.
In the early 1980s, law enforcement didn?t have the benefit of modern forensic science. There was no database to compare DNA evidence to. Back then, the police didn?t even know to collect DNA. If they held onto clothing or other items from a crime scene, they may have gotten lucky and had DNA to use years down the line, but it wasn?t of much use to them back then. However, when a set of fresh eyes looked at the Keddie murders in 2013, they found that boxes of files and evidence had been completely disregarded.
In one instance, investigators found the case files sealed in an envelope with a cassette tape of a recording from an anonymous caller who purported to know that the remains found in the woods belonged to Tina Sharp. The call came in before the identity of the remains was confirmed.
Sheriff Gamberg ? Source: The Sacramento Bee
In total, the Plumas County Sheriff?s special investigator Mike Gamberg found an additional 12 boxes of evidence and ?a freezer full of stuff? stored in various locations in Quincy, CA. Additionally, he obtained access to evidence collected in Butte County, where Tina?s remains were found.
Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood told People in 2016:
?Those are tangible discoveries. ? Why that sat in a sealed evidence envelope, never opened, I don?t have the answer to that. But we have it now.?
Gamberg said that six ?persons of interest? were identified and were still alive (as of 2016, anyway), and he believes ?they at minimum have firsthand information, and at a maximum participated in or assisted in destroying evidence and disposing of Tina?s remains.?
While Gamberg doesn?t support theories of a cover-up by law enforcement, people generally agree that the early investigation was botched.
Long-lost evidence in the Keddie Murders ? Source: The Crime Files
- Investigators refused to believe Justin when he told them that Tina was missing. It took several hours for law enforcement to realize he was telling the truth, which significantly delayed the search for the girl.
- The anonymous caller recorded on the long-lost audio tape told the police that the skull found about 30 miles outside of Keddie belonged to Tina Sharp, well before the remains were positively identified.
- Authorities did not properly secure the crime scene, leading to evidence contamination. Much of the evidence obtained later in the case was ruined by a leak at the sheriff?s office.
- When Sheriff Hagwood took over the case, he discovered that an anonymous person had called the sheriff?s office and informed law enforcement that a claw hammer* used in the murders was found in a nearby pond.
Online sleuths get made fun of all the time for being ?armchair detectives,? but the most recent investigation was triggered in part by information provided by online communities.
It is believed that Marty Smartt and Bo Boubede committed the Keddie murders, but both men are now dead, so the truth must be uncovered without their assistance. The Keddie Cabin Murders are still considered unsolved.
Sheila Sharp in 2016 ? Source: People.com
Sheila Sharp says she has blocked out many of her memories from the morning of April 22, 1981, but the quadruple murders have continued to have a profound effect on her life.
Sheila is in her early fifties now. She is married, the mother of three children, and the grandmother of two grandchildren.
In a 2016 interview, Sheila said:
?One of the main things I have a hard time with is getting close to people, for fear that something?s going to happen. And I know I always look around. I?m not as ? I guess I?m more cautious of my surroundings.?
Right after the murders, the remaining Sharp children were sent to live with an aunt, but she was overwhelmed as she already had several children of her own. Eventually, Sheila and her siblings were placed in foster care ? first together, then apart. She was forced to become a sort of surrogate mother to her younger surviving siblings and made it her mission to protect them and insulate them from the horrors of April 21, 1981, as much as possible.
Life for Sheila has been a struggle dotted with victories, joys, and reasons to celebrate. She said that being able to close the case would be a relief for the family ? a small bit of closure. But what she wants more than anything is for people to remember her mother?s kindness more than they remember the violent fate that befell her.
?I would like my kids and grandkids to know that she was a very caring and kind person. She would have done anything for them ? and probably spoiled them rotten.?
*There is conflicting information about the hammer or hammers used in the murders. It isn?t clear if two hammers were used, or if the hammer found in the pond was the only one involved in the slayings.