Notes For Unsolved: Keddie Cabin
Research notes for True Crime Season 2 Episode 9
**Research compiled for Ryan & Shane on December 16, 2016 by Kari Koeppel.
Contact info for Sheriff Hagwood (if you want to check on status of DNA results): [redacted]
- In 1981, four people were murdered at a cabin in Keddie, California, in Plumas County in the Sierra Nevadas.
- The cabin was being rented by the Sharp family, who normally lived in the town next to Keddie - Quincy, CA, also in Plumas County.
- The bodies were discovered by Sheila Sharp on April 12, 1981. She was 14 at the time.
- She had slept over at a friend’s cabin next door the night before.
- Sheila found 3 bodies in her family’s cabin, Cabin 28, at the Keddie resort: the body of her mother, Glenna Sue Sharp (called Sue), 36; her brother, Johnny Sharp, 15; and Johnny’s friend Dana Wingate, 17. Research note: Dana was a boy
- The bodies had been bound and it was clear that they had been handled extremely violently.
- Sheila’s 12-year-old sister, Tina, should have been present at the scene as well but was missing.
- Johnny and Dana were found on the same living room floor, with their heads and necks bloody. Johnny was face-up. An electrical cord bound his hands and feet, and also bound Dana’s feet.
- Sue’s hands and feet were bound by electrical wiring, and she was covered by a yellow blanket.
- All three of the victims had been killed with knives and a hammer.
- These weapons were found at the scene: A bent steak knife, found on the floor; a bloodied butcher knife, found on a small wooden table near the entryway to the kitchen; next to a bloodied claw hammer
- Surprisingly, Sheila’s two younger brothers, Greg (age 5) and Rick (age 10), as well as their friend Justin Smartt, were also found in a bedroom in the cabin - asleep, safe and sound.
- When Sheila found her mother, brother, and brother’s friend, blood had spattered onto the walls and ceiling because of the force used to kill them.
- Sheila screamed upon the discovery of the body’s, and her neighbor’s brother heard the scream. He entered the cabin and was the one who found the young boys alive in the bedroom.
- Tina’s skull was found about 50 miles away 3 years later, in a whole other county, on the third anniversary of the murders, in 1984.
- The tip was called in by an anonymous 911 caller, who identified the skull as Tina’s… but how could they have known based on a skull alone?
- The skull ended up being confirmed as Tina’s through dental records.
- This source says Tina’s skull was found 80 miles away in Butte County.
About Sue Sharp & Her Children
- Sue had left a broken marriage.
- Sue Sharp was described as a quiet woman, who was into her kids. Some people theorized that she may have been a drinker or done drugs, but people who knew her deny that.
- She had moved her family to the area in 1980, a year before she was murdered.
- Sue had been married to someone in the military, who Sheila claims had been abusive to Sue, Sheila, and TIna.
- Sue left him behind in Connecticut, where they had lived, to be near her brother Don in northern California. (This source says they moved in the late 1970s).
- The Sharp family lived in relative poverty, according to Sheila.
- Sheila reports that her mother was very caring, who did her best to raise five children alone.
- Sue also reportedly showed kindness to those outside her family.
The Suspects & Theories
Doug Thomas, then the Plumas County sheriff leading the investigation, told People Magazine in 2016: “Whoever did this — and there was more than one person — had to have blood all over them.”
Most Plausible Theory: Marty Smartt & Bo Boubede [See: Recent Updates for more]
- The main suspects during the investigation were Marty Smartt and his friend and roommate, “Bo” Boubede. Bo was an ex-con.
- Marty lived 2 cabins down from the Sharps. He was married to Marilyn Smartt, the mother of Justin Smartt, the surviving friend of young Greg and Rick.
- Marty’s marriage to Marilyn was reportedly troubled, and Sue Sharp had reportedly interfered with their marriage.
- Former sheriff Doug Thomas said, “There were some theories that [Marty’s friend] Boubede was involved, and there was some theories that some other people in Keddie were involved.” [Of Marty and Boubede] “The only thing I knew is, they hung out together. We questioned them extensively.”
- Both Marty Smartt and Bo Boubede are both now dead. Marty died in 2006, and Bo died in 1988.
- It’s believed that Sue had been counseling Marilyn Smartt about her abusive husband, Marty, and that he “went ballistic” about it.
- Marty reportedly left Keddie for Reno, Nevada soon after the murders, writing a letter to his wife that was only just recently re-discovered by investigators [see: Recent Updates]
Law Enforcement Cover-Up Theory
- Popular Keddie cabin murder theory website Keddie 28, which current investigators have credited with helping keep the story alive, supports the idea that there was police cover-up involved, claiming that the then-sheriff was friends with Marty Smartt.
- There are theories online about a possible coverup by law enforcement in the Keddie cabin case. Current Sheriff Hagwood acknowledges and even appreciates them, saying:
“That discussion will continue to be there. We have to stay focused on what we’re doing now and how it will bring us closer to answering the question of who and why… It has brought to light some amazing timelines, histories, and what some may call ‘coincidence’ and others may look at more accusingly… I don’t put anything outside the realm of possibility.”
- Former sheriff Doug Thomas, who was sheriff at the time of the murder (but left for a new job at the California Department of Justice soon after), is a suspect in the minds of many online theories. He acknowledged that to People Magazine, and said:
“There was no shortage of suspects, but suddenly now everybody 35 years or so later have all figured out what happened, and that all of the investigating officers were corrupt. It’s laughable, is what it is… Martin Smartt was not a friend of mine. At one point he and his wife were having marital problems and they came to my office when I was sheriff and wanted me to counsel them. First of all, I had just gone through a divorce at that time. I told them, ‘Why would you want me to counsel you?’”
- Former Sheriff Thomas did say that he did give that one “session” of advice to the Smartt couple, which took place before the murders.
- Marilyn Smartt does not recall meeting with her husband and the sheriff, but said that the two were not friends to her knowledge.
- “Why that that sat in a sealed evidence envelope, never opened, I don’t have the answer to that. But we have it now.” - Sheriff Hagwood on the tape of the anonymous phone call
- As of 2001, the father of Dana Wingate (the friend who was also killed) believed that the police had "stumbled over each other and fouled up the case."
Anti-Sue Sharp Theories
- According to internet theories, Sue reportedly dated frequently and had reportedly been in an abusive relationship soon before her murder.
- “In her book, Sheila wrote, “My mom’s character has been subject to all manner of cruel supposition including accusations that she was a drug addict, drug dealer, prostitute, or at the very least an unfit mother.””
- There are reports of Cabin 28 at the Keddie Resort Lodge being haunted, after what happened there.
- It had previously been a popular resort, and now it’s “a ghost town.”
- A psychic said that the ghosts are probably still in shock from being murdered and haven’t moved on yet.
Recent Updates To The Case
Reopening the case
- Both of the current investigators, Mike Gamberg and current sheriff Greg Hagwood, have a personal connection to the victims and the case.
- Hagwood went to school with Johnny and Dana before they were killed, and they had worked a summer job together on a painting crew. Hagwood’s mother had taught Tina in school. And Hagwood had also stayed in Cabin 28 previously, as a guest of the former tenants.
- Gamberg had taught Johnny and Dana martial arts.
- Hagwood took over the role of Sheriff in 2010, and he brought Gamberg out of retirement in June 2013 to help finally solve the case.
- Gamberg had worked at the sheriff’s office at the time of the murders, but had not worked the case at the time.
- He had twice been fired and twice been reinstated at the sheriff’s office.
- The first thing Gamberg did after being put on the case was organize boxes of case reports and evidence, and he soon found this letter from Marty Smartt to his wife Marilyn, reportedly written soon after the murders.
- He reportedly wrote, “I’ve paid the price of your love & now that I’ve bought it with four peoples lives, you tell me we are through. Great! What else do you want?”
- Marilyn does not recall ever receiving the later. She has since remarried.
- She reportedly learned of the letter years afterward, but recognized her ex-husband’s handwriting.
- The current sheriff’s investigator, Mike Gamberg, also recently spoke to Marty’s former therapist in Reno, Nevada, to whom he allegedly confessed the murders.
- The therapist reportedly told Gamberg that he was surprised that the investigators at the time of the murders hadn’t used that confession against Marty.
- Soon after it became public knowledge that they had reopened the case, Gamberg found out that a man had found a steel, blue-handled claw hammer using a metal detector near a pond near Keddie. The hammer matched the description of one that Marty had told investigators he’d lost. As of late November 2016, it was being tested for DNA or blood residue as a possible additional murder weapon.
- Tina’s skull was found on the third anniversary of the murders, in 1984.
- The tip was called in by an anonymous 911 caller, who identified the skull as Tina’s… but how could they have known based on a skull alone? The skull ended up being confirmed as Tina’s through dental records.
- Gamberg believes that the anonymous caller must’ve been either involved or tipped off.
- The audio tape of that 911 call is now being compared with audio of suspects, looking for a match.
- Sheriff Hagwood told People:
“There are people locally who know more than they’ve said, and I believe we’ve identified some of them, and we know who they are, and we know where they are. And I have every confidence that they either participated after the fact or they have first-hand information… It’s obviously a worthwhile pursuit. There is not an expiration date on homicides, and to the extent that we have surviving siblings and family members, it is our fundamental obligation to them to understand who did this and why.”
- He believes they are closer to solving the case than ever before.
- On why the 911 voice recording had never been voice-analyzed, Sheriff Hagwood said that this was “an opportunity that just hasn’t existed. Why that that sat in a sealed evidence envelope, never opened, I don’t have the answer to that. But we have it now.”
- In late November 2016, Sheriff Hagwood said of the Marty Smartt/Bo Boubede theory:
“It’s a theory that we are working, to the degree possible, to conclude or dismiss. There’s a disproportionate amount of evidence and information that tends to point in that direction.”
- There are at least 6 individuals who, as of late November 2016, are believed to have either “participated after-the-fact or they have firsthand information.”
- All 6 are still alive.
- Sheriff Hagwood said: “I believe they at minimum have firsthand information, and at a maximum participated in or assisted in destroying evidence and disposing of Tina’s remains.”
- It’s possible that even if the case is solved, no one will be charged. But Sheriff Hagwood hopes it will offer the surviving Sharp family members closure:
“I really believe that it would give the family some kind of closure, if you would call it that. At least they will know, and maybe I will have confirmed their suspicions from the very beginning. That in itself is solving the case. They know that somebody never gave up on it.”
- Another knife was also recently found near the murder scene.
- The knife, voice recording, and hammer are currently with the FBI being analyzed.
The reason why Sheriff Hagwood reopened the case:
“There were many, many years when little or nothing was done on investigation. It’s obviously a worthwhile pursuit. There is not an expiration date on homicides, and to the extent that we have surviving siblings and family members, it is our fundamental obligation to understand who did this and why.”
- It’s possible that the case may not have been as looked into at the time because the Sharp family may have been seen as lower class.
- Keddie and nearby Quincy are located in the Sierra Nevada and had previously had successful timber and mining industries, but those had declined by the time the Sharps moved there in 1980, only a year before the murders.
- Sheriff Hagwood said —
“Especially in today’s environment, because somebody may be looked down upon as socially marginalized, economically marginalized… There are people who lived in our community who rightfully deserved, and should expect, the same level of service and commitment… You cannot differentiate based on social status. If you do, you’ve forfeited the underlying principle of why we’re here.”
- Investigator Mike Gamberg said of the murders, “It struck this community harder than anything.”
- Sheila is now 50 and married to Richard Whittle, with three children and two grandchildren.
- Sheila said of the case, “I gave up. I pretty much thought, I’m going to my grave not knowing.”
- Of the recent developments by Sheriff Hagwood, Sheila said, “Finally, I have somebody who cares.”
- In 2012, Sheila co-wrote a book with her husband called How to Survive Your VIsit to Earth. It was partially a memoir, and partially a self-help book.
- The book discussed Sheila’s personal belief that the murders were carried out by Marty Smartt and Bo Boubede, because Sue had counseled Marilyn Smartt against Marty.
- Sheila said of Sheriff Hagwood’s recent work:
“In the last three years, he’s done more than the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office has done in the previous 32 years.”
- After the murders, Sheila, Greg, and Rick (the surviving Sharp siblings) were sent to live with an aunt outside of California. However, that didn’t last long as the aunt already had several children and couldn’t support them all.
- They were later placed in foster care. At first the siblings were kept together, but later they were separated.
- Sheila said of how her surviving younger brothers coped with their mother and siblings’ deaths:
“We sheltered them. I became their mother, and it’s hard for me to step back and be a sister, ’cause that’s what I am — I’m their sister, I’m not their mother, and they need to make their own choices.”
- Sheila doesn’t remember discovering her family with much detail:
“The most vivid image I have is of my brother laying there. The neighbors say I came back screaming. They said I said it was Johnny. But I don’t remember that… It’s a little bit confused. It could have been that I blocked it out, and the shock of it all, too.”
“There’s times I think, Gosh, should I go get hypnotized to see what I remember? But do I really want to remember? ...I want to remember the happy times.”
- The cabin was demolished in 2004.