Keddie is a small town in the mountains of Northern California, situated 87 miles from Reno, Nevada. It was a thriving resort community known for its natural beauty and the railway that transported people between Salt Lake City and Oakland, California. Keddie once looked like a piece of time in Pioneer history. Made up of log cabins, the town was considered an ideal place to raise a family. By 1981, the town had drastically gone downhill since its formation in 1910 when a hotel and lodge were built for those traveling through Keddie. The owner of the resort, Gary Mollath, began to rent his cabins to low-income families. It was rumored that there drug use in the area, mostly marijuana and hashish. Residents still considered Keddie a decent place to raise a family with minimal earnings until the murders of four people shocked the residents of Keddie and changed all of that in a matter of hours.
April 11, 1981. Glenna “Sue” Sharp and her family lived in Cabin 28. A neighborhood child named Justin spent the night with her sons Ricky, 10 and Greg, 5. Her 12-year-old daughter, Tina was home at the time. 14-year-old Sheila, was staying the night at a neighbor’s house. Sue’s oldest son, 15-year-old Johnny and his friend Dana Wingate, 17, who was known as a trouble maker, were in the nearby town of Quincy hanging out with friends for most of the evening.
The crime that ensued that night was the most vicious attack in Plumas County history. The police found stab marks in the walls of the cabin and a large amount of blood on the living room floor. The autopsy reports showed all three victims were tied at the hands and feet, with Sue’s bindings being especially tight. Sue and Johnny were bludgeoned with a hammer and stabbed repeatedly. Dana was strangled to death and also stabbed. Tina was missing from the cabin. The police concluded that Tina was taken from the house that night. While processing the scene they found a small amount of blood on the sheet of her bed. They also found a bloody fingerprint on a wooden post outside in the backyard. In 1984, three years after she was abducted Tina’s skull was found in Feather Falls at Camp 18, about 29 miles from Keddie, officially making this a quadruple murder. Examination of the skull showed Tina was likely killed the night or soon after she was kidnapped. The manner in which she died is unknown. The same is true as to why the child was taken from the house.
When Sheila Sharp came home the next morning she opened the front door and found the gruesome sight of her mother’s body lying under a yellow blanket and the lifeless bodies of Johnny and Dana lying close to Sue. The boys were tied together at their feet with tape and electrical cord. Sheila noticed what she thought to be a pocket knife lying near the bodies. It was later determined to be a steak knife that was used to kill the victims. The attacks were so savage that the force from the stabbings bent the blade backward approximately 25 degrees. Sheila ran from the house and went to the neighbors to call the police. Incredibly, Justin, Ricky and Greg were unharmed during the vicious attack. Sheila returned to the cabin to help Justin and her brothers climb through the bedroom window. When interviewed, Ricky and Greg claimed to have slept through the ordeal.
Justin’s statements about that have been inconsistent through the years. At times, he claimed to have seen the killers, but other times he stated he had a dream about seeing the murders take place. In this dream he covered Sue up with a blanket and tried to stop the bleeding by placing a cloth on her chest. In another story, he saw nothing at all. Police believed Justin touched at least one of the bodies because blood was found on the outside doorknob of the boy’s room. The bedroom door of the boy’s room was also partially open when the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene.
The Plumas County Sheriff’s Office interviewed a number of people and produced a person of interest, Martin Smartt. Marty, his wife Marilyn and her two sons (one of the boys being Justin) lived in Cabin 26. Marty had a friend staying with the family named Severin John “Bo” Boubede, whom Marty had met a few weeks earlier at the VA hospital where he was being treated for PTSD. Bo, Marty and Marilyn stopped by Sue’s cabin on their way to the local bar earlier in the evening. Marilyn asked Sue to go for drinks with them but since she had several children in the cabin with her, Sue declined. At the bar Smartt became angry over the music that was playing and spoke to the manager about it. The three left with Smartt still upset and returned to their cabin. Marilyn claimed to have watched TV and then went to bed. Smartt said he made a phone call to the bar to complain about the music once again and then he and Bo went back to the bar.
The Botched Investigation
Soon after the investigation started, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office called in the Department of Justice, which was based in Sacramento, California. Detectives for the Department of Justice questioned all three of them and concluded that they were not involved even though Marilyn told the investigators that she left Smartt the day after the murders. She mentioned her husband had a violent temper and abused her both emotionally and physically. The interviews of Smartt and Bo revealed a half-hearted attempt by the DOJ detectives, Harry Bradley and P.A. Crim Jr., to examine the two in any depth, asking each of them a series of easy, leading questions and not following up on discrepancies. During the interview with Bo, Detective Crim mentioned that Bo was a retired police officer which was untrue. This false assumption encouraged detectives to treat Bo with deference.
At the start of the interview, Bo indicated he knew which one of the cabins was the one where the murders were committed, but toward the middle of the interview, he said he did not know. Detective Bradley just said “Oh, I thought you’d know. Well, we’ll point it out to you on the way back.” Bo lied and said Marilyn was his niece when, in fact, they are not related in any manner. He told the detectives he had lived in Keddie a month when in fact he’d only been around for 12 days. When Bo claimed Marilyn was awake when he and Smartt returned from the bar the second time, the detectives said nothing about Marilyn saying she was asleep when they returned. Additionally, Bo stated they arrived at the bar between 9:30- 10 p.m. but later changed this time to 12 a.m. to fit his alibi.
Smartt told investigators that Justin, could have seen something the night of the murders “…without me detecting him…” This remark implicated Smartt in the murders, but the detectives ignored it. Smartt added that he heard a hammer was used to beat the victims before they were stabbed to death. Then, without prompting, he voluntarily told Crim and Bradley his hammer had “gone missing” before the murders. Smartt spoke about the victims deaths being overkill. He described how he would have killed them fast and gotten out of the house as quickly as possible. Crim and Bradley never questioned him further on this either. After interviewing Smartt and Bo, the DOJ investigators did not do any follow-up interviews and they let Smartt move out-of-town to relocate in Klamath, California. Bo went back to the Reno VA hospital. In July, Plumas County Sheriff Doug Thomas announced his resignation. In 1976, Thomas became an insurance salesman and a part-time instructor at Feather River College in Quincy, Ca.
The month after the Keddie murders, Smartt called a therapist and told the doctor he was being blamed for the killings. Ten years after Smarrt’s death in 2000, his therapist came forward and told the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office that Sartt had confessed to killing Sue Sharp. He also told the police that Smartt was a friend of Plumas County Sheriff Doug Thomas and that Smartt once let Thomas live with him. Smartt told him that beating a polygraph was easy. Smartt said the reason he killed Sue was because she was trying to talk Marilyn into divorcing him. That Justin’s life was spared made sense since his own father was one of the killers.
In 2002 filmmaker Josh Hancock took on the challenge of making a documentary about what happened in the small town of Keddie. The film included interviews with members of the Sharp family and Wingate family and various members of Plumas County law enforcement. Hancock’s motive for making the documentary was to draw attention to a cold case that was swept under the rug. By doing that he hoped to bring justice to the victims and their families. Hancock believed that the Plumas County Sherriff’s Office did careless work regarding the investigation of the crime. On his website it states, “Exposing the truth, one liar at a time. Hold Plumas County Sheriff’s Office accountable!”
The crime scene was substantially botched. The sheriff’s office did not secure the scene and failed to call the Department of Justice immediately upon arriving. What may be most damning of all is the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office did not realize Tina had even existed or had been kidnapped. Arriving officers refused to listen to Justin even after he told the sheriff’s office Tina was taken from her bed on the night of the murders. Because of this discrepancy, the sheriff’s office wasted precious hours which should have been spent searching for Tina.
The Unsolved Murders
To this day the sheriff’s department refuses to discuss the case and will not look into it. The sheriff’s department also will not accept assistance from other law enforcement agencies. Much of the evidence collected was lost by law enforcement or destroyed due to a leak in the roof at the sheriff’s office. Furthermore, after three decades nothing has been done with the bloody fingerprint that was collected from the scene. After the murders, the community lived in shock and fear. The atmosphere had changed. The once quiet and peaceful Keddie was abandoned by most of its inhabitants. Cabin 28 became a horror house of sorts. Although at least one family lived in the cabin after the murders. In 2004 Cabin 28 was bulldozed to the ground. Today there are only a handful of residents that call Keddie Resort home. Although the Keddie murders are officially on the books as unsolved Smartt’s confession to his therapist may be legitimate. Why the police haven’t re-opened the case is the real mystery.