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Cold Cases: The Unsolved Keddie Murders in California Revisited

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Cold Cases: The Unsolved Keddie Murders in California Revisited

The infamous Keddie murders that took place in 1981 left America desperate for answers. Now, thirty-eight years later, finding answers seems just as impossible.

The murders took place on April 11th, 1981 in Cabin 28 at the Keddie Resort. 36-year-old Glenna Susan ‘Sue’ Sharp, her son John and his friend Dana were all found dead in the cabin. The remains of 12-year-old Tina Sharp were found years later.

Background of the Keddie Murders

Sue Sharp had five children and had recently moved to Keddie, California from Quincy after divorcing her husband. This was mainly because her brother Don was also in California, which gave her a much-needed support system. Her children – 15-year-old son, John, 14-year-old daughter Sheila, 12-year-old daughter Tina, 10-year-old Rick, and the youngest Greg at 5-years-old, were ready to begin a new life.

Unfortunately, they were not there for very long, since the murders happened only five months later. Living in rural Keddie meant the cabins were pretty close together. So, one night Sheila decided to spend the night with the Seabolt family, which may have been what saved her life.
the keddie family

While Shelia was away for the night, the rest of the family remained home, along with two guests.

John’s friend 17-year-old Dana and Rick and Greg’s friend Justin Eason had been invited over. Justin was new to the Keddie family, since he had been living in Montana up until he moved in with his mother and step-father.

Marilyn and Martin Smartt, Justin’s mother and step-father, were only a few feet away in Cabin 26. Dana and John were going to spend some time in his room and Tina was watching television in a nearby cabin. It seemed to be an ordinary night that would have welcomed an ordinary day. Unfortunately, that day never came.

Shelia’s Horrific Discovery

Shelia came home the following day at around 7 AM, only to be greeted by a sight that would leave her terrified for years to come. A powerful odor and the site of blood were the first things she noticed. Her mother, her brother John and his friend Dana were all lying there dead. Their bodies were bound with electrical wire and adhesive tape.

the keddie cabin

John was lying on his back on the living room floor bound by his feet to another boy. Police later found that the boy tied to John’s feet was in fact, Dana. Shelia’s mother’s lifeless body was found underneath a yellow blanket nearby. It was evident that they had all been viciously stabbed to death in the cruelest of ways.

Screaming for help, Shelia ran out of the house searching for her neighbors. After searching the cabin, the younger boys – Rick, Greg, and Justin – were found alive and unharmed. They were removed by Shelia with the help of some neighbors.

Authorities were notified right away and the investigation began.

The Investigation

The investigation was initially handled by the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office and it was not handled all too well. Much like what happened in the Lisa Au case, an area with barely any crime normally has the sloppiest of investigations.

It was astounding how long it took the police to simply figure out that Tina was missing. When Justin Eason tried to mention it, he was very quickly silenced and ignored. It took them hours to realize that one of the murdered woman’s children had not even been accounted for.

The investigation led to some discoveries that would give anyone nightmares.

John and Sue Sharp had both suffered blows from two different hammers of different sizes. Sue had also been bludgeoned with a rifle and her underwear had been stuffed into her mouth along with some tape. A cord was tied around her ankles as well. They both had stab marks all over the body and throat.

keddie family murders

Dana had been strangled to death but had also suffered blows. The scene itself was horrific, with a considerable amount of blood and knife marks all around the house.

There had been no attempt to conceal anything, but oddly enough the boys slept peacefully in the next room. On the other hand, a couple nearby had reported hearing muffled screams.

All of this led to more questions. How the boys never heard anything and why they were left unharmed were the biggest ones. Nothing was making sense.

Further investigation found a ton of DNA as well as a fingerprint on a handrail that led to the cabin’s door. The phone had been left off the hook and the curtains had been drawn as well. Blood was found on the victim’s shoes. This meant that they had possibly moved around as it was happening.

Suspects and Questions

Justin Eason’s step-father, Martin Smartt, was the prime suspect for a while since he had a very shaky alibi. John “Bo” Boubede was a friend of Martin’s and had been staying with them temporarily.

Martin, Bo, and his wife told police that they met Sue on their way to the local bar and asked her if she wanted to have drinks with them. She declined and they carried on to the bar. Martin was also complaining about the music while he was at the bar and even went back, later on, to continue drinking.

While all of this made him a suspect, the polygraph results came back negative.

The biggest conundrum of the entire case was actually Justin Eason. His story changed constantly. He finally admitted, under hypnosis, that he was not asleep during the night of the murder. He said that had witnessed Sue having an altercation with two men – one with long hair and a mustache and the other shaven with short hair. These same men took Tina away.

keddie murder suspects

His descriptions led to sketches being drawn but no answers came out of this. The only real development in the case was when Tina’s remains were found years later in 1984. This did not bring the police any closer to solving the murder, but they did find out what Tina’s faith had been.

Recent Developments

The cabin was finally demolished in 2004. The case remained cold right up until 2008. This was when Justin’s mother came out in a documentary and said she had always suspected her husband Martin. But in the same documentary, sheriff Doug Thomas stated that Martin’s polygraph results had come back negative.

Polygraphs have been debated by the scientific community, and some even said that the sheriff was friends with Martin. This was the closest police ever got to an answer.

In 2016, a hammer was found in a pond nearby and it matched the case’s descriptions. This seemed like a break in the investigation but Special Investigator Mike Gamberg stated:

the location it was found… It would have been intentionally put there. It would not have been accidentally misplaced

In 2018, a piece of tape at the crime scene tied a living suspect to the crime scene.

So far, a lot of questions remain unanswered and the more information police find, the more questions arise. There is only really room for conspiracies in a case like this.

Originally published on

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