Investigators allude to the Keddie Cabin Murder
Sue, Johnny, Tina Sharp and Dana Wingate's 1981 murder remains a mystery, but we might soon see an arrest.
Glenna Susan Sharp, who preferred to be named Sue, left Connecticut in 1980 leaving behind a tumultuous marriage. She was packed into her car with her five kids in tow and hit the road.
She wanted California closer to her brother. They first settled in Quincy, California, moving into a 1-bedroom trailer recently vacated by her brother and his partner, but the small trailer park wasn't suitable for the big family.
Her children were John, fifteen, Sheila, fourteen, Tina, twelve, Ricky, ten, and five. Sue had learned a small resort town nearby in Keddie, California, facing financial troubles and converting their cabins into low-income housing.
Keddie cabins were once a massively popular resort destination, but by the 1980s the cabins had gone into a state of disrepair that didn't bring the once affluent crowd.
The family moved into cabin number 12, it was run down, but the kids had more rooms, and lots of other families were living on the property. The three-bedroom cabin. Her eldest son, Johnny, took the unfinished basement, Rick and Greg's youngest boys took a bedroom, Sue and Tina shared a room, and Sheila had a bedroom.
All the kids had buddies to play with. It seemed like a happy place for the family.
Sue's ex-husband in the Navy. The family was used to traveling a lot, and they looked forward to staying there for a while. Sue had difficulty hitting ends. She was given $250 from her ex-husband, food stamps, and social security. She was also involved in a federal education program that gave her money to take community college classes.
Sue took business lessons. Her classmates said a good student. Sue worked hard, gaining outstanding marks. Her classmates also claimed she was a loner; she had no coffee breaks and preferred to study alone rather than in a group environment.
Sue faced much community stigmatism. People didn't like she was on welfare, and seemed to date several guys. People gossiped, accusing her of drugs or sleeping for money with men.
A big explanation for the gossip was that Sue held herself. She didn't make many friends; most likely because she spent most of her adult life traveling and wasn't used to developing lasting friendships.
Sue didn't seem to mind loneliness, and she didn't care what people were saying about her. She hoped to develop her life into something else. She hoped to own a small company, buy a child-friendly home and keep them safe.
April 11, 1981, was like every other day, a regular Saturday. Johnny and his best friend Dana Wingate were looking for a party in the next place, Quincy. Sheila and Tina played with Seabolt kids in a neighboring cabin. Ricky and Sue were at home.
Both kids are in Cabin 28 all day. This was common for all families, with everyone living so close together. Ricky and Greg's pal Justin Eason's over. The three boys spent most of the day riding bikes, playing outdoors.
They played until dark before going home for the night. Justin had arranged for a sleepover. Tina also returned that night, while Sheila decided to stay overnight in Seabolt's home. Johnny and Dana both intended to return that evening, but remains unknown when they returned.
Little Greg was first to go to bed at 8:30pm. Then Tina at 9:30. Ricky and Justin joined Sue to watch Love Boat, then they went to bed around 10:00. Sue sat on the couch watching TV, dozing, still not ready to turn in. She most likely waited for Johnny and Dana to return before officially going to bed.
Investigators noted it was a normal Saturday evening. People came and left Keddie all night. With people going to and from the nearby "Back Door Bar."
People heard some strange things at night, a dog barking near Cabin 28. Someone noticed that while they slept, their cats walked in and out of the house all night. Another noticed Cabin 28's back porch light at 4:00 am. But these aren't things one necessarily associates with tragic incidents. They seemed random. Nothing was the same at the Keddie Cabins before 8:00 a.m. the next morning.
Sheila Sharp made the familiar trek to Cabin 28 at 8:00 am, planning to swiftly transform into clothes appropriate for church and go with the Seabolt's. When she entered house, however what she found was incomprehensible.
She remembered her brother lying face-up, soaked in blood. There was another boy face down, bound at both sides. She saw a yellow blanket covering what she felt resembled another body, but she didn't know who. She fled out of the cabin, crying, back to the Seabolt's calling police.
Sheila and James Seabolt Jr. returned to Cabin 28 to find the boys. Looking through the windows of the cabin, they see the youngest boys sleeping in their bedroom. They woke them by knocking on the window, demanding that they crawl through the window, so they were not traumatized by the living room horrors.
Sheila sent Justin home to his parents, waiting for the police to arrive with Sheila. James proceeded to explore the property, finding survivors. Since Sheila wasn't sure who the person was under the blanket, and since the boys were unharmed, it was unknown who was still in the house. The hope was shielding Tina.
James noted the cabin back door remained open. He walked through the cabin, calling out, but when no one appeared or answered, he left the cabin and joined the crowd of outsiders.
The crime scene wasn't included. Initially, the Plumas County Sheriff's Office handled it. Errors and oversights riddled it. Deputy Hank Klement was first on the scene and reported that all three bodies had died.
Sergeant Jerry Shaver talked to a group of people outside, taking their statements. Shaver and Klement walked through the building, "reviewing the scene."
Sheriff Doug Thomas and assistant sheriff Ken Shanks came to the scene and Don Stoy followed them. The scene now had five men walking through it (seven if you think James and Sheila also entered the scene), none of whom knew how to protect a crime scene.
It wasn't until all five men passed through the home that scene photos were taken. Officers did house-by-house welfare checks and questioned possible witnesses, and it wasn't for many hours that officers were unaccounted for.
The FBI was called upon to investigate Tina's disappearance, but the FBI was only involved for about two weeks before returning the investigation to the Plumas County Sheriff's office.
The most confounding thing about the murder was three young boys sleeping through the entire ordeal. The murderers left them as possible witnesses. Ricky and Greg had no memories, and they first recalled Sheila waking them.
Justin recorded telling his mother he'd dreamed he'd heard noises in the living room. When he opened the door of the bedroom, Sue talked to two men, and Johnny and Dana walked in the front door and started to argue with the men, a fight broke out, and one of the men quickly took Tina into the room.
It is important to remember that Justin's testimonies changed at different points in his life, and he gave the most thorough account under hypnosis. His assertion is also not very consistent with the facts, but he is firmly assumed to be a witness, and the ordeal trauma is why he has no robust and consistent memory.
At home, researchers found two bloody kitchen knives with such force that one was heavily bent, a hammer, and a pellet rifle. Each victim was bound with medical tape, and electrical cords were taken from various appliances around home and extension cords.
Sheila said they never had the medical tape in the house before but at least one of the perpetrators had brought it with them. Investigators confirmed the yellow blanket was Sue. She was wearing a robe, but otherwise nude.
Sue's underwear was stuffed with a tape ball in her mouth. An extension cord protected the tape and socks. Sue was battered with a claw hammer and stabbed repeatedly.
Johnny was still battered, but his throat was slit. However, Dana Wingate was strangled and beaten with another modeled instrument believed to be a hammer not recovered among the arms.
Proof found by investigators was blood drops on Tina's bed, a bloody footprint in the yard, knife marks on various home walls, and a bloody fingerprint inside a door frame and railing.
It is strongly suspected that the chaos would require at least two people. The killers were in no hurry. The victims died of wounds, except for Dana. The living room floor had lone blood pools, showing the boys were relocated and repositioned. Sue's bare feet and one of the boy's shoes were coated in blood, suggesting they were mobile at one point and walking in blood.
Detectives noted the scene's absence of fingerprints and recognizable DNA. This led detectives to believe the suspects wore gloves and were ready. Forensic evidence was not gathered until the mid-1980s, so hair, skin cells, and other DNA transfers were not obtained from scene. The blood was determined to belong to the victims.
At the time, the hope was Tina's hiding in the bush. She was known to build wood forts and hideouts. Her bones were discovered three years later, a hundred miles from Keddie, near Feather Falls. They found a child's blanket, a blue nylon scarf, a pair of Levi's jeans with a missing back pocket and an empty surgical tape dispenser.
In the three years between murders and Tina's body discovery, the case had gone absolutely cold. There were reports that the slayings were related to narcotics, but law enforcement never found a correlation.
Nobody might know the planned target for the slayings. Theories varied from all the victims, but none had any real rivals or altercations.
Police investigated several hypotheses, pouring 4,000 working hours into the investigation. Detectives ruled out Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole, who were involved in the killing area.
Keddie and Plumas County were never the same after April 11. It changed the culture, and people were haunted, many assumed that someone among them knew who perpetrated the attacks.
People started locking at night. The group had deep beliefs that the Plumas County Sheriff's Office had secretly tucked away the case. Some assumed that some leads weren't pursued, evidence wasn't verified, some evidence was ignored.
Department of Plumas County Sheriff interviewed everybody in Keddie cabins and everyone else who knew the victims. Justin Eason's stepfather, Martin Smartt, was among those interviewed.
He, his friend John "Bo" Boubede, and his wife Marilyn had stopped at Sue's cabin to invite her to the bar with them. Sue refused, going to the pub. At the pub, Smartt had protested to the manager about playing music. Shortly after, they left and went back to the Smartt cabin, walking cabin 28. Marilyn went to bed about 11pm, and the men went to the bar for more drinks.
He said he and Bo returned home about midnight. Smartt also volunteered a hammer missing to investigators. Since police had not released details that the crime scene lacked a hammer, this placed Martin at the top of the suspect list.
Martin met Boubede a few weeks before April 11, while serving in Vietnam at a Veterans hospital where Martin received PTSD medication.
The Smartt's moved Boubede home before he could get on his feet. Boubede reportedly didn't worry of Johnny Sharp calling him "Punk."
Boubede had told Keddie people he was a policeman, and Martin was nice to most officers. Someone in the sheriff's department reportedly tipped Martin and Boubede as criminals, and both men soon found jobs outside California.
Boubede was thinking back to Chicago, and Smartt found a job in Nevada. Boubede died 1988 in Chicago.
Martin wasn't the greatest husband. He was said to have cheated his wife, abusive and prone to violent outbursts, and involved selling drugs. He served as a cook at the Keddie hotel, but was fired a few weeks before the murders.
Sue, Martin and Marilyn had all taken the same business classes, and it was said that Sue urged Marilyn to leave her husband. Martin worked in Nevada after April 11, and his marriage to Marilyn began to deteriorate.
He gave her a note, sounding like confessing to the murders. It reads as follows:
"I paid the price for your love, and I bought it with four lives now and you tell me we're done. Good! Great! ”
They finally split, Marilyn remarried.
Martin frequently saw PTSD counselor. The counselor acknowledged that Smartt had "killed Sue and Tina, but had little to do with the boys. Tina had to be killed because she saw everything."
The counselor supposedly told Plumas County Sheriff's Office what Smartt had told her, but there's no evidence ever taken of that assertion.
Martin died in Portland, Oregon, in June 2000. Marilyn claimed that she believed her ex-husband and Bo Boubede was responsible for the murders. She said after going to bed, they went back to the bar and at 2 a.m. she woke up to find them in the woodstove burning unknown objects.
While there is no proof to support her claims, that would explain why Justin slept with the younger boys. It can also clarify why Justin's story has shifted, blocked it from trauma, or threatened to remain silent.
Cabin demolished in 2004. In 2016, someone using a metal detector in the area found a hammer in a pond near Cabin 28. It matched the hammer definition Martin claimed lost. In April 2016, a near-scene knife was also recovered.
Plumas County Sheriff's Department claims to vigorously investigate six suspects and a live suspect matches DNA retrieved from scene.
One investigator found an audiotape in a box of old evidence leading police to Tina's place. It stayed unopened in the evidence bag, none of the initial investigators even bothered to listen.
The knife, hammer, and tape were all submitted for FBI examination. No news on how they supported the investigation. There's also a $5,000 reward for any leads to arrest and prosecution.
The lead investigators currently working on the case are sure they'll solve this very soon. They're cited as saying,
"There are still people of interest who knew or participated in this crime and should be worried."
Sheila Sharp continues to work with law enforcement to keep the cold case of her family alive.