The Keddie Cabin Murder Case

New Evidence Surfaces in the Keddie Murders

Potential Keddie Cabin murder suspects in a police sketch
Police Sketch

On April 11, 1981, 36-year-old Glenna "Sue" Sharp, her 15-year-old son John, and his 17-year-old friend Dana Wingate were murdered in Cabin 28 at the Keddie Resort, in Keddie, California. It was discovered later that 12-year-old Tina Sharp was missing. Her remains surfaced years later.

Before the Murders

Sue Sharp and her five children—John, 15, Sheila, 14, Tina, 12, Ricky, 10, and Greg, 5—moved from Quincy to Keddie and rented Cabin 28 five months before the murders. On the evening of April 11, 1981, Sue had given the okay for Ricky and Greg to have their friend, 12-year-old Justin Eason, over to spend the night. Justin was also relatively new to Keddie. He had been living in Montana with his father, but moved in with his mother and stepfather, Marilyn and Martin Smartt, in November 1980.

The Smartts lived in Cabin 26, which was just a short distance from the Sharps' cabin. Letting Justin spend the night would not be a problem, but if it became one, Sue knew she could always send him home. Plus the house was fairly empty. Sheila had plans to go to a sleepover at a friends house. John and his friend, 17-year-old Dana Wingate, were going to Quincy that night, then coming back to hang out in John's bedroom in the basement. Tina was over in Cabin 27 watching television, but came home around 10 p.m.

The Discovery

The following morning Sheila Sharp returned home at around 7:45 a.m. As she opened the door, she immediately noticed an offensive odor that seemed to engulf the room. When she stepped into the living room, it took her mind a moment to comprehend what her eyes were seeing.

Her brother John appeared to be bound and lying on his back on the living room floor. There was blood caked around his neck and face. Next to John was a boy, bound and lying face down. It appeared that the boy and John were tied together at their feet. Her eyes then landed on a yellow blanket that was covering what looked like a body. Gripped by fear, Sheila ran to the neighbors while screaming for help.

The investigation into the murders was initially handled by the Plumas County Sheriff's Office. From the start, the investigation was riddled with errors and oversights. To begin with, the crime scene was never properly secured. Even more astounding was the amount of time that it took for the police to realize that Tina Sharp was missing. When the first police officers arrived at the scene, Justin Eason tried to tell them that Tina was missing, but they ignored what the boy was saying. It wasn't until hours later that everyone realized that the 12-year-old daughter of the murdered woman was gone.

The Murders

Inside Cabin 28, investigators found two kitchen knives, one that had been used with such force that the blade was severely bent. Also found was a hammer, a pellet gun, and a pellet on the living room floor, which led investigators to believe that the pellet gun was also used in the attacks.

Each victim had been bound with several feet of medical tape and electrical appliance wires removed from appliances in the home and extension cords. There was no medical tape at home before the murders, indicating that one of the attackers brought it in to help bind the victims.

An examination of the victims was conducted. Sue Sharp's lifeless body was found under the yellow blanket. She was wearing a robe, and her underwear had been removed and forced into her mouth. Also in her mouth was a ball of tape. 

The underwear and tape were held in place with an extension cord that was also tied around her legs and ankles. Both Sue and John Sharp had been beaten with a claw hammer and stabbed multiple times in their bodies and throat. Dana Wingate was also beaten, but with a different hammer. He had been strangled to death.

There was considerable blood on the living room floor, and drops of blood on Tina's bed. The investigation pointed to rape as the motivation behind kidnapping Tina, instead of murdering her in the home with the others. More evidence found included a bloody footprint that was discovered in the yard and knife marks in some of the walls of the home.

The Investigation

While the brutal attacks inside Cabin 28 were going on, Sue's sons Ricky and Greg and their friend Justin Eason were sleeping undisturbed in the boys' bedroom. The boys were found unharmed in the room the following morning after the murders. 

A woman and her boyfriend, who were in the cabin next door to the Sharps' cabin, were woken up at around 1:30 a.m. by what they described as muffled screams. The sound was so disturbing that the couple got up and looked around. When they were unable to determine where the screams were coming from, they went back to bed.

It seems impossible that screams woke the neighbors, but did not disturb the boys that were in the same house where the screams originated. Also perplexing is why the killers chose not to harm the boys when any one of them could have been pretending to be asleep and later identified the perpetrators.

A Possible Break in the Case

The Plumas County Sheriff's Office questioned anyone who could have heard or witnessed something that could help solve the case. Among those that they interviewed were the Sharps' neighbor, Justin Eason's stepfather, Martin Smartt. What he told investigators made him a prime suspect in the crime.

According to Smartt, on the night of the murders, a friend of his by the name of Severin John “Bo” Boubede was staying with the Smartts on a temporary basis. He said he and Boubede first met a few weeks earlier at the Veterans Administration Hospital, where they were both receiving treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder.

Smartt claimed to suffer from PTSD as a result of his time spent fighting in Vietnam. He went on to say that earlier in the evening of April 11, he, his wife, Marilyn and Boubede, decided to go to the Backdoor Bar for a few drinks. 

Smartt worked as a chef at the Backdoor Bar, but it was his night off. On the way to the bar, the group stopped in on Sue Sharp and asked her if she wanted to join them for drinks. Sue told them no, so they left for the bar. At the bar, Smartt complained angrily to the manager about the music that was playing. They left shortly afterward and went back to the Smartts' cabin. Marilyn watched television, then went to bed. Smartt, still angry about the music, called the manager and complained again. He and Boubede then went back to bar for more drinks.

Thinking that they now had a prime suspect, the Plumas County sheriff contacted the Department of Justice in Sacramento. Two DOJ investigators, Harry Bradley and P.A. Crim, conducted additional interviews on Martin and Marilyn Smartt and Boubede. During the interview with Marilyn, she told the investigators that she and Martin separated the day after the murders. She said that he was short-tempered, violent, and abusive.

After the interviews with the Smartts and Boubede were completed and Martin was polygraphed, the DOJ investigators decided that none of them were involved with the murders. Marilyn Smartt was interviewed again at a later date. She told investigators that Martin Smartt hated John Sharp. She also admitted that early in the morning of April 12, she saw Martin burning something in the fireplace.

Back to Justin Eason

As time went on, Justin Eason began to change his story. He had told the investigators that he was asleep during the murders, as were the other two boys, and that he did not hear anything. 

In a later interview, he described in detail a dream that he had where he was on a boat and saw John Sharp and Dana fighting with a man with long black hair, a mustache, and black glasses, who was carrying a hammer. The man threw John overboard, and then Dana, who he said was very drunk. 

He went on to describe seeing a body that was covered in a sheet lying on the bow. He looked under the sheet and saw Sue, who had a knife cut in her chest. He tried to help her by patching the wound with a rag, which he ended up throwing into the water. In reality, Sue Sharp did have a knife wound in her chest.

Another time, while being polygraphed, Eason told the polygrapher that he thought that he saw the murders. He said that a noise woke him up and that got up and looked through the door into the living room. He said he saw Sue Sharp laying on the sofa and that there were two men standing in the middle of the room.

He described the men, one with black and dark glasses, the other with brown hair and wearing army boots. John Sharp and Dana came into the room and began arguing with the two men. A fight broke out, and Dana tried to escape out through the kitchen, but the man with the brown hair hit him with a hammer. John was being attacked by the man with the black hair, and Sue tried to help John.

Justin said that this point, he hid behind the door. He then saw the men tying up John and Dana. He also claimed that he saw Tina come into the living room holding a blanket and asking what was going on. The two men grabbed her and took her out the back door as Tina tried to call for help. He said the man with the black hair used a pocket knife to cut Sue in the middle of her chest. Justin worked with a sketch artist and came up with composites of the two men.

A Former Neighbor

On June 4, 1981, investigators Bradley and Crim interviewed a man who lived in Cabin 28, but moved two weeks before the murders. He said he did not know the Sharps, but that three weeks before the murders he heard Sue Sharp and an unknown man yelling at each other. They continued to fight for another 30 minutes, screaming obscenities back and forth at each other.

DOJ Investigators Get a Slap From the Locals

When details of the interviews that Bradley and Crim had conducted with Martin Smartt and Boubede came to light, the Plumas County authorities were livid. Bradley and Crim were accused of sloppy work and failing to fact check or to pursue clarification for obvious discrepancies made by Smartt and Boubede.

During the initial interview with Crim, BouBede said that he had worked as a Chicago police officer for 18 years, but retired after being shot while in the line of duty. This was an obvious lie which could have quickly been spotted had Crim paid attention to Boubede's date of birth. Boubede lied about how long he had lived in Kiddie by adding two weeks to the time. He said Marilyn was his niece, which was a lie.

He claimed Marilyn was awake when he and Smartt came home after their second trip to the bar. Had anyone been paying attention, they would have caught that it contradicted what Marilyn said, which was that she was asleep when the two men came home.

BouBede said he never met Sue Sharp, which contradicted what Marilyn said about the three of them stopping at the Sharp house and inviting her for a drink. Bradley and Crim showed a similar lack of energy when interviewing Martin Smartt. In one interview, Smartt said that his stepson Justin Eason might have seen something on the night of the murders, adding, "without me detecting him" at the end of the sentence. The investigators either missed the implications in Smartt's slip up, or they weren't listening.

Smartt talked to the investigators about the hammers that used in the murder, adding that he had recently lost is own hammer. There were no follow-up interviews with Smartt or BouBede, since the investigators believed that the pair had no involvement in the murders. No longer a prime suspect, Martin Smartt moved to Klamath, California. Boubede returned to Chicago where he scammed several police officers out of money, was caught and almost did prison time, but died before being incarcerated.

Tina's Remains

In 1984, the cranium part of a skull was found about 30 miles from Keddie. Several months later an anonymous caller told the Butte County Sheriff's office that the skull belonged to Tina Sharp. Another search of the area was made, and a jawbone and several other bones were found. Testing confirmed that the bones belonged to Tina Sharp.

The Butte County Sheriff's office gave the original and the backup copy of the recording from the anonymous caller to someone in law enforcement. Since then, both the original and the backup copies have disappeared.

A Dead Man's Confession and New Evidence

Martin Smartt died in 2000, and not long after his death, his therapist told the Plumas County Sheriff's Office that Smartt had confessed to him that he killed Sue Sharp because she was trying to convince Marilyn to leave him. Smartt never mentioned who killed John, Dana, or Tina. He also told the therapist that it was easy to beat the polygraph, that he and Plumas County Sheriff Doug Thomas were friends, and one time he let Thomas move in with him.

On March 24, 2016, a hammer was found that that matches the description of the hammer that Marty Smartt claimed was missing two days after the murders. According to Plumas County Sheriff Hagwood, "the location it was found... It would have been intentionally put there. It would not have been accidentally misplaced."

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Your Citation
Montaldo, Charles. "The Keddie Cabin Murder Case." ThoughtCo, Aug. 1, 2021, Montaldo, Charles. (2021, August 1). The Keddie Cabin Murder Case. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "The Keddie Cabin Murder Case." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).