The Mystery Behind The Keddie Cabin Murders Explained

In 1979, Glenna "Sue" Sharp left her abusive husband and moved herself and her five children from Connecticut to Quincy, California. As reported by Keddie28, they initially rented a trailer home owned by Sharp's brother. However, it was simply too small for the family of six. In September 1980, Sharp found a larger home in the former resort town of Keddie, California.

Historic Memories reports Keddie was once a bustling town with a busy railroad terminal. However, many of the residents left, and the town fell into disrepair when the railroad terminal was closed. The town was later promoted as a resort town, with opportunities for camping, hiking, and other recreation. Unfortunately, the town's attempt to reinvent itself fell short.

Gary Mollath, who owned one of the failed resorts, turned his cabins into long-term rental units for low-income families. Although the cabin Sharp rented from Mollath was run down, it provided her and her family with more room. She also appreciated the fact that it was in a more rural, wooded setting.

Sharp's neighbors described her as a "loner," who only made one close friend in the community. Keddie28 reports she was attending business classes at the Feather River Community College, where she was purportedly a "good student" who worked hard to maintain high grades. Local authorities confirmed she was not known to law enforcement and did not have a criminal record.

Three people were killed in the Keddie cabin

Keddie28 reported Sue Sharp began dating a man named Dareyl approximately one week before she was killed. However, they only went on a few dates, and the last time they saw each other was two days before she was killed.

On Saturday, April 11, 1981, Sheila Sharp spent the night with neighbors, as she planned to attend church with them the following morning. However, she forgot to bring the clothes she planned to wear to church. As reported by Keddie28, she returned to her family's cabin, which was only 15 feet away, at approximately 7:45 Sunday morning to get her outfit. When she opened the door, Sharp was horrified to find the bodies of her mother, brother John, and her brother's friend, Dana Wingate, covered in blood on the floor of the front room. Keddie28 reported Sharp immediately fled the cabin and ran to the neighbors for help.

Authorities arrived at the scene shortly after 8 a.m. In addition to confirming Sue, John, and Dana were dead, the officers concluded they were murdered. In one of the bedrooms, authorities found Rick, Greg, and their friend Justin Eason Smartt, unharmed. However, Tina was missing.

As reported by Keddie28, all three victims were bound with cords, medical tape, and wire. According to Historic Mysteries, John and Sue suffered blunt force trauma to the head and were stabbed multiple times. Although Dana also suffered trauma to the head, she was strangled to death.

Someone may have witnessed the attacks

Several of the suspected murder weapons were found at the scene, including two knives and a hammer, which were covered in blood. Authorities concluded at least one of the knives, which was a steak knife, came from the kitchen of the cabin. Although the room was covered in blood, it was all traced back to the victims, as reported by Historic Mysteries. The only thing authorities found that may reveal the identity of the killer, or killers, was DNA collected from a piece of medical tape used to bind the victims.

Authorities interviewed neighbors and the boys who were inside the house when the attack occurred, but there were no eyewitnesses. Historic Mysteries reports neighbors heard "muffled screams or groans," sometime between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., but they did not realize anyone was in danger and simply went back to sleep.

Rick and Greg claim they were asleep when the others were killed in the next room. However, their friend Justin was not as sure. As reported by The Mystique, Justin began having vivid dreams in the days after the murders. In his dreams, he saw two men in the front room of the cabin. One of the men was holding a small knife and a hammer. According to Historic Mysteries, Justin said Sue was talking to the men when John and Dana arrived home. The discussion suddenly erupted into a violent attack.

Authorities identified Marty Smartt as a suspect

Justin said he saw one of the men stab Sue Sharp. Amid the attack, Tina came out of her room and was carried out of the house by one of the men, who came back inside the house without her.

As reported by Historic Mysteries, Justin was placed under hypnosis and questioned about the content of his dreams. While under hypnosis, he described the killers as a tall man with blond hair and a mustache and a short man, who was clean-shaven with dark hair. Justin said both men were wearing glasses. Although Justin's dreams, and the details he provided during hypnosis, were chilling, it is unclear whether he actually witnessed the murders or the dreams simply echoed details reported by the media. It has also been suggested that he was asked leading questions during hypnosis.

Nevertheless, authorities were determined to follow any possible leads. Based on Justin's description of the attackers, detectives identified Martin "Marty" Smartt as one of the primary suspects in the cabin murders. As reported by Historic Mysteries, Smartt was Justin's stepfather. Amid his interview with police, authorities learned Smartt and his wife were enrolled in a class with Sue. He also told authorities he had a hammer, which went missing around the same time the murder occurred. Historic Mysteries reports Marty's wife Marilyn found a bloody jacket in their basement, which she believed belonged to Tina. 

Marty Smartt reportedly confessed

Although Marilyn gave it to authorities, Historic Mysteries reports there is no record that the jacket was entered into evidence. Marilyn also provided a letter she received from Marty, in which she said he confessed to the Keddie cabin murders. "I've paid the price of your love & now I've bought it with four people's lives," ABC10 reports the letter said.

As reported by Timber Creek Talon, Marty also purportedly confessed to the murders during a therapy session. Although the therapist alerted authorities, nothing was reportedly done. Smartt moved to Reno, Nevada, shortly after the conclusion of his police interview and was also never arrested or charged in the Keddie cabin murders.

Authorities also interviewed Marty's close friend, John "Bo" Boubede, who lived with Marty and his wife, and was out with Marty on the night the murders occurred. Boubede told authorities he was a former Chicago police officer and that Marilyn was his niece, which were both later revealed to be untrue. However, Historic Mysteries reports he was never arrested or charged in the murders.

On April 22, 1984, Tina Sharp's remains were found in a wooded area of Butte County, which, as reported by California News Times, was approximately 100 miles from Keddie. In 2016, a hammer, which could have been the one Smartt reportedly said he lost, was found in a pond near where the Keddie cabin once stood.

The Keddie cabin murders remain unsolved

As reported by ABC10, John Boubede died in 1988, and Martin Smartt died in 2006. Although authorities believe they were both involved in the Keddie cabin murders, they think they may have had help. "I believe there are two individuals that are alive and accessories after the fact," Detective Mike Gamberg said in an April 2021 interview with ABC10.

Former Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood said he believes Tina is "central to why" the family was killed. In an interview with ABC10, he said, "You kill three people in a cabin, and you leave the remains there to be discovered ... I think there was something about Tina that could not be left there to be discovered. It's my strong sense that there's something about Tina that did not allow for her to be left there."

Both Gamberg and Hagwood said they believe authorities are getting closer to solving the case.