In the rural town of Keddie, California, a mother and three children were attacked on Saturday, April 11, 1981. Three of them were murdered that night, and one of the children remained missing until years later. Although the identity of the murderer is still a mystery, new information has surfaced in the last decade and could help to solve the Keddie cabin murders.
Please note that there is a lot of misinformation published online about the Keddie murders. Although we have attempted to sort through it with due diligence, even the most credible sources do not agree on all the details.
Glenna “Sue” Sharp was a dark-haired, attractive single mother with five children. Everyone called her Sue. In 1979, she left her abusive husband. Her brother, who would help her and the children start a new life, lived in Quincy, California, about 150 miles north of Sacramento. Sue packed her children up and moved across the country from North Carolina to the Golden State.
They lived in a trailer park for a short time, but then Sue decided to move just five miles from Quincy into the mountains to a place known as the Keddie Resort. Once a busy railroad terminal in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Keddie had lost much of its population after the railroad closed down. The town tried to reinvent itself by becoming a recreational camping and hiking resort area. However, when this failed, the Keddie Resort owner Gary Mollath turned a series of cabins into low-income rental housing.
The Sharp Family in Keddie Resort
Sue’s ex-husband was in the military when they divorced, and the Navy gave her $250 a month to start her new life. She also worked a part-time job at the Quincy Elks Lodge, and with the little money she brought in, Sue rented Keddie Cabin 28 in the fall of 1981. Over the next few months, Sue worked hard to turn their new mountain community into a permanent home for her children. John, 15, was the oldest boy, while the oldest girl was Sheila, 14; Tina was 12; and the two younger boys were Rick, 10, and Greg, 5.
Always busy trying to better her situation, Sue took a typing class with financial aid. Neighbors said that for the most part, she kept to herself but the family was integrating well. The children were attending school in Quincy and were making friends.
From the front door, their small wooden cabin opened to the living room. Beyond the living room was the kitchen and two bedrooms. The girls shared one, and the younger boys shared the other. The oldest boy, John, got the ground-floor basement all to himself. From the ground level in the back of the house, a flight of stairs led up to the main living area.
April 11, 1981
On April 11, 1981, Sue and the kids were in and out of Cabin 28 throughout the day. A neighborhood boy, Justin Eason, would spend the night with Sue’s two youngest sons that evening. The three youngsters were hanging out at the house since the afternoon. The oldest boy, John, and his buddy, Dana, had spent the day in Quincy.
Around 1:30 pm, Sue and her oldest daughter Sheila went to pick up John and Dana in Quincy. Then at 3:30 pm, the two teenagers headed out again. They had planned to return home later that night. Sue urged them not to hitchhike, but passersby spotted John and Dana on a street corner trying to flag a ride home around 9:30-10:00 that evening.
Sue had spent the later afternoon with Sheila and Tina. In the evening, the two girls went to the Seabolt family house next door in Cabin 27, just 15 feet away. There, they visited their friends and watched TV. Sheila would spend the night at the Seabolt’s. Tina, on the other hand, went home around 9:30 and planned to sleep in her own bed.
The Keddie Cabin Murders
The next morning at around 7 am, Sheila returned home from her sleepover next door. When she opened the front door to the living room, she discovered a massacre. Blood was everywhere. The living room was in complete chaos, and Sue, John, and John’s friend, Dana, were dead on the floor. Electrical cording and medical tape bound their wrists and ankles.
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After she saw the gruesome scene, Sheila ran back to the next-door cabin to get help. While the Seabolts tried to calm the distraught girl, their teenage son, Jamie Seabolt, went to Cabin 28 to see if anyone was still alive. The three boys in the house, Rick, Greg, and their friend, Justin, were all safe in the bedroom. They were still asleep and seemingly unaware of what happened. Jamie ushered them out of the house through the bedroom window to protect them from the horrifying crime scene.
Police arrived at around 8:00 am and began their investigation of the murders. Sue and John had suffered similar types of wounds. Their throats were slashed, and they both had multiple stabbings and blunt force trauma to the head. Dana also had severe head injuries, but he had also been strangled.
Sue was gagged deeply with a bandana and her underwear. Tape secured the gag in place. She was naked from the waist down, but there was no sign of sexual assault. Blood patterns indicated that her legs were initially splayed apart, but someone moved her and covered her body with a yellow blanket after the murder. It is unclear when this happened or who did it.
The boys’ bodies had also been moved.
Evidence Inside Cabin 28
Given the extent of the brutality of the Keddie cabin murders, there was plenty of evidence left behind. Investigators discovered two bloody knives, a hammer, and a plastic piece from a BB gun. The weapons included a steak knife that came from Sue’s kitchen. They also found a bloody fingerprint on the handrail leading down from the back door.
Blood was all over the victims, the floors, walls, ceiling, both bedroom doors, and on the railing of the outside stairs. However, the perpetrators did not leave behind any of their own blood. If they suffered any injuries during the event, it wasn’t serious, although they did leave some DNA on a piece of tape.
Due to the chaos, it took police quite a few hours before anyone realized that Tina was nowhere to be found. There were some bloodstains on her bedding, which suggested that she might have been kidnapped from her bed after the murders. Unfortunately, many hours passed since her disappearance, and the chance of anyone finding her nearby was slim.
Were There Witnesses to the Keddie Murders?
Some neighbors near Cabin 28 reported that muffled screams or groans woke them up between 1:00 am and 2:00 am. Unfortunately, they couldn’t determine where the sounds came from and went back to sleep.
The three boys who survived said they slept through the incident. Considering the level of violence that took place, this seems impossible. Also, the murderers must have been aware of the three remaining boys in the cabin. Investigators theorized that someone might have interrupted the murders taking place before the culprits had a chance to kill the younger children in their bedrooms. Later, police learned that maybe not all the boys had actually been asleep.
Coroner and Police Findings
It was evident that Sue had put up a fight during the attack, as she had defensive wounds on her arms. Oddly, John and Dana did not have any defensive wounds or blood under their bindings. Therefore, it appears they did not have a chance or chose not to fight back. All of their injuries happened after the killers tied them up.
Findings confirmed that the weapons used on the victims’ heads were two different hammers and a BB gun in Sue’s case. The plastic piece that the police found in Cabin 28 matched up to a Daisy 880 BB gun. Additionally, the same gun matched the impressions that the butt of the gun left on Sue’s head.
Despite the multitude of evidence and a few suspects, no arrests took place. Many people believe that the police were either incompetent or corrupt and covered up the crime for some reason. It was true that investigators failed to log numerous pieces of evidence and overlooked leads.
Around a month after the Keddie murders took place, the neighborhood friend, Justin, who was one of the survivors, told his therapist that he was having dreams about the murder. In his dream, he had tried to stop the bleeding in Sue’s chest with towels, and he covered her with a blanket.
Was it possible that he either witnessed the murders or awoke at some point during the night but had blocked it out? He was placed under hypnosis in an attempt to recall any details of the night. Justin said that he was watching TV in the boys’ room before he fell asleep. He began hearing noises out in the living room and claimed to have seen Sue with two men. One of them was tall with blonde hair and a mustache, while the other was shorter, dark-haired, and clean-shaven.
Justin recalled that both men wore glasses and that the two older boys, John and Dana, came home while Sue was talking to the men. Somehow, this erupted into a bout of violence between them, which resulted in the murders.
Justin also claimed that Tina came out shortly after, and one of the men abducted her out the back door.
Although the story is intriguing, Justin may have gotten information about the case from the media during the four weeks since the murders. Additionally, some sources say that on the hypnosis tapes, the police made suggestions to Justin during the session. (Whelan).
Tina’s Body Recovered
Tina is believed to have been present at the crime scene of the Keddie cabin murders. The clues suggested that the perpetrators abducted her. Because she was a minor, the initial search for her involved the FBI, but, for some unknown reason, they quit investigating after about a month.
It wasn’t until three years later on April 22, 1984, when Ronald Pedrini reported that he was in the woods about 90 miles southwest of Keddie when he stumbled upon something suspicious. While he was supposedly collecting cans, a human skull and mandible turned up.
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Investigators initially thought it may belong to a Native American person. However, an anonymous call to the Sheriff’s office reported the remains as belonging to Tina Sharp. Two months later, a forensic analysis of the teeth confirmed that they were indeed Tina’s remains.
Near her bones in the woods, detectives also discovered a pair of jeans with a missing back pocket, a blue jacket, a blanket, and an empty surgical tape dispenser. However, none of the evidence helped the investigators find the killers or determine how she died.
A person matching the description Justin gave became a primary suspect in the investigation — Justin’s stepfather, Martin Smartt, also known as “Marty.” Marty, his wife Marilyn, and Marilyn’s two sons lived in Cabin 26 near the Sharp’s house just across the lane. Marilyn and Marty happened to be taking the same typewriting class that Sue was enrolled in.
Most descriptions of Marty say that he was an unsavory individual with a criminal record and a mean demeanor. He admitted that he had a problem with his temper, and Marilyn had claimed that he tried to run her and her son over.
During his interrogation, Marty offered to the police that his hammer with a blue handle had gone missing. He also told investigators that his stepson, Justin, might have seen something on the night of the murder without the killer detecting the boy. However, investigators didn’t address these statements, and the police did not arrest or interview Marty again. After his interrogation, Marty Smartt left Keddie and went to live in Reno for a time. Then he moved to Oregon and died there in 2000 from cancer-related issues.
Later, it came to light that Marty was a personal friend of the local county sheriff, Doug Thomas, at the time of the crime. Moreover, it appears that Marty had actually confessed to the murders to two different people. However, investigators must have buried these facts until 2016 when new discoveries reignited the case.
Marty’s counselor at the Veterans Administration in Reno told police that Marty confessed to killing Sue and Tina but not the two boys. According to the story, Marty said he was angry that Sue had convinced Marilyn to leave him. On the other hand, his reason for killing Tina was that she had seen everything. As a result, he couldn’t allow her to live. Although the counselor initially reported Marty’s statements to the police not long after the killings, the police did not log the information as evidence or follow up with this information.
A few years later, Marty’s wife, Marilyn, said that she had found Tina’s bloody jacket in their basement and had given it to the police during the earlier investigation. Unfortunately, there is no record of this ever happening. If she did turn in a jacket, the police, once again, did not acknowledge it as evidence.
Marilyn later said in a 2008 documentary that she believed Marty was the perpetrator and that he had even confessed in writing to her. In a letter, Marty purportedly said:
I’ve paid the price of your love and now that I’ve bought it with four people’s lives, you tell me we are through. Great! What else do you want?
The police never admitted this letter as evidence.
Marty had a friend, John Boubede, who had been living at Marty’s house. The two had only met weeks before the killings while Boubede was receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at the nearby Veterans Administration Hospital.
On the night of the Keddie cabin murders, Marilyn, Boubede (or Bo as they called him), and Marty had been out together at the local bar. All three returned home later, but Marty and Bo went out again. When they returned to the bar much later, they were wearing suits, as if they had spent the evening at a business meeting. One theory is that they really wanted people to notice them.
During the interrogation after the murders, Boubede told police that he worked as a police officer in Chicago for 18 years. However, this turned out to be untrue. He also exaggerated about how long he had lived in Keddie. Additionally, he said that Marilyn was his niece, which was also false. Some sources claim that Boubede had a crush on Sue, who supposedly rejected him twice.
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Despite his lies and inconsistencies in his stories, police cleared him as a suspect. Later, investigators learned that Boubede had a criminal record and was working as an enforcer with the mafia in Chicago. Investigators believe he was cooperating with the Department of Justice as an informant. This may be the reason the Department of Justice in Sacramento stepped into the Keddie case early. But curiously, instead of sending homicide detectives, they sent organized crime investigators to Keddie.
It is unclear what evidence links Boubede to the mafia. Nonetheless, it raises many questions. Was this why detectives never adequately investigated Boubede? Is this why detectives seemed to turn a blind eye to many clues and disregarded evidence? Were they protecting their informant?
John Boubede left Keddie after the murders and returned to Chicago, where he died in 1988.
New Developments in the Keddie Cabin Murders
In 2013, the Plumas County Sheriff, Greg Hagwood, hired Mike Gamberg as a Special Investigator. Gamberg was a young deputy when the Keddie cabin murders occurred. However, he did not have any involvement in the case at the time. Since his recruitment in 2013, he has made several new discoveries.
In 2013, he located the recording of the anonymous 911 phone call that came in after Tina’s remains surfaced. Mysteriously, the recording was at the bottom of an unopened evidence box. Gamberg sent the tape to other law enforcement agencies for analysis and possible leads.
In 2016, a man sweeping around with a metal detector found a hammer in a dried-up pond near Keddie’s entrance. It matched the description of the one Marty gave in his interrogation. Sheriff Hagwood believes that the location couldn’t have been accidental and that someone intentionally threw it in the water. Gamberg also discovered a hunting knife in Keddie under some junk and sent that in for further analysis.
Then in April 2018, Gamberg matched the DNA from the murder scene to a known living suspect. Since then, no arrests have been made, and the names have never been released to the public. Nevertheless, Gamberg says that six people may have been involved. Two suspects, Marty and Bo, died. Of the suspects who are still alive, Gamberg said:
They better batten down the hatches because we’re coming. We’re continuing with the investigation, and we’re doing interviews, and we have several persons of interest.
The results of the analyses and tests are unknown. As far as the person who gave John and Dana a ride home, Gamberg indicates that he identified a woman and has interviewed her. (Metcalf: 2018).
Gamberg and the owner of Keddie28.com, who goes by the name DMAC, believe that Sue Sharp and Marty Smartt were having an affair. Gamberg thinks that at the same time, Sue was counseling Marilyn to leave Marty. Dmac does not agree on this point. But, some investigators believe that Marilyn was somehow complicit in the murders. It seems possible that Marilyn learned about an affair between Marty and Sue. The statement from Marty’s letter, “What else do you want?,” sounds like Marty is asking, In addition to what you already asked for, what more do you want me to do?
Marilyn moved out of Cabin 26 the day after the murders. Investigators claim that she was having her own affair at the time. She remarried and is still alive.
Sue Sharp’s surviving children left California to live with an aunt. Unfortunately, they later went into foster care as their aunt already had several children and couldn’t handle more. Sheila has spoken about the horrific incident in several interviews. She mentioned, however, that she doesn’t talk to her brothers about it because she wants to protect them. Relatives of the victims and the public anxiously await the day when investigators bring justice to the killings of Sue, John, Tina, and Dana.
Over the years, the Keddie Resort fell into disrepair, and in 2004, Cabin 28 was demolished. The entire site has since been abandoned.