In a small community in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Sharp family are relaxing at home. Sons Rick and Greg are playing with a friend, while daughter Tina returns home late after watching television next door. The two eldest children, meanwhile, are out enjoying small-town life, one socializing in nearby Quincy and the other having a sleepover with friends. However, although it seems ordinary enough, this is a night like no other – and life in Keddie will never be the same again.
On April 11, 1981, Glenna “Sue” Sharp, 36, was living with her family at the Keddie Resort, some seven miles north of the town of Quincy, California. At the time, she shared a small cabin with her sons John, 15, Rick, 10, and Greg, 5, as well as daughters Sheila, 14, and Tina, 12.
The Sharp family were originally from Connecticut but had fled after Sue’s abusive husband threw them out of their home. For a time, they traveled across the U.S., visiting friends along the way. Finally, they reached Keddie.
There, the Sharps happened upon what appeared to be a stroke of luck. Gary Mollath, the owner of a local resort, was attempting to rescue his dying business by hiring log cabins out to families wishing to live there all year round. The rent was affordable, and consequently, in November 1980, the Sharps moved into a three-bedroom property.
Unfortunately, Keddie was not the best place in which to raise a family. Indeed, the struggling railroad town was rife with violence and petty crime. On top of that, the conditions inside the cabin were far from luxurious, with Sue often sleeping on the sofa while the children shared rooms.
Nonetheless, the family soon settled in to life in the mountains. The children made friends, often playing in the forest surrounding the resort. Meanwhile, despite her reserved nature, Sue forged a close bond with one of her neighbors and even went on dates with local men – until a horrific turn of events that changed everything.
On the night of April 11, Sue was at home in Cabin 28 with Rick and Greg. They had also invited a neighbor, 12-year-old Justin Smartt, over for a sleepover. Meanwhile, Tina and Sheila were next door in Cabin 27, where they were watching television with the Seabolt family.
Tina returned home at around 10:00 p.m., while Sheila stayed at the Seabolts’ for the night. Only the eldest Sharp child, John, was out of town. Having passed the day with his friend Dana Wingate in Quincy, he was spotted later that evening trying to thumb a ride home.
What happened next is still open to debate. At some point that evening, John and Dana returned to Cabin 28 – where John enjoyed the independence of a basement room. Tragically, though, the teenagers would not survive the night – and neither would Sue.
On the morning of April 12, Sheila made her way back to her family’s cabin. The Seabolts had invited her to join them at church, and she needed to collect a change of clothes. However, when she stepped in through the front door, she stumbled upon a truly terrifying scene.
There, on the floor of the cabin, were three bodies. Horrified, Sheila ran screaming back to Cabin 27, from where the Seabolts notified the police. While they waited for the authorities to arrive, however, they thought something needed to be done. Consequently, Sheila forced herself to return to the scene of the crime, with Zonita Seabolt and her son Jamie in tow.
Soon, moreover, they realized that not everyone in the cabin was dead. Against all odds, Greg, Rick and Justin had survived. In fact, asleep in their bedroom, they apparently hadn’t even noticed that anything was amiss. After helping the boys escape through a window, then, Jamie went in search of other survivors.
Sadly, none were found. Sue, John and Dana had all been slaughtered – attacked with sickening violence. The murderer – or murderers – had bound the victims in electrical wire and tape before setting upon them with knives, hammers and the butt of a Daisy Powerline rifle.
Sue and John had died as a result of their injuries, while Dana had eventually been strangled to death. When investigators arrived, they discovered two knives as well as a hammer covered in blood at the scene. What they didn’t find, however, was Tina. In fact, the young girl had disappeared.
Meanwhile, as the close-knit community of Keddie struggled to come to terms with such an atrocity, the police began the unenviable task of identifying suspects. Over time, two main persons of interest emerged. One was Martin Smartt, Justin’s stepfather, a troubled veteran who lived close to the Sharps.
Apparently, Smartt had recently been in a veterans’ hospital, where he was being treated for psychiatric issues. And there, he’d met John “Bo” Boubede, a convicted criminal. After they were subsequently discharged, the pair traveled to Keddie together. However, even though police questioned both men extensively, they did not bring charges against either suspect.
In fact, despite the considerable evidence recovered from the scene, the Keddie murders remained unsolved. Then, in 1984, a skull was discovered in woods more than 50 miles away from Cabin 28, and eventually it was identified as belonging to Tina Sharp.
However, this development didn’t seem to bring the Sharps any closer to justice. Indeed, the victims had been dead for more than 30 years before the case finally began to heat up. Even though both of the main suspects were now dead, some members of the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office were determined to get to the truth.
In August 2013 Special Investigator Mike Gamberg was assigned to the cold case, and he soon realized that lots of major clues had been overlooked. For example, a letter written by Martin Smartt came to light which seemed to indicate that he was responsible for the crime. What’s more, the files contained an unopened phone recording in which the caller stated that the newly discovered remains belonged to Tina – long before the authorities themselves were sure that they did.
Did Smartt commit the murders in retaliation against Sue, who had apparently been advising his wife Marilyn about their difficult marriage? Moreover, was the crime then covered up by members of the police department who were friendly with Smartt? While Gamberg still searches for the truth, the horror of the Keddie murders will continue to haunt the American psyche for many years to come.