The Keddie Murders is an unsolved 1981 American quadruple murder that took place in Keddie, a former resort town in the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada. The murders took place in cabin 28, during the late evening of April 11, 1981 and/or early morning of the 12th. The victims were Glenna Sharp, known as Sue, her son John (age fifteen), and his friend, Dana Wingate (aged seventeen).
On the morning of April 12, Sue's fourteen-year-old daughter, Sheila, discovered the bodies of Sue, John and Dana in the cabin's living room upon returning home from her sleepover next door. All three victims found in the cabin had been bound with electrical wire and medical tape.
Examination of the bodies determined that each of the victims had been bludgeoned with a claw hammer, and Sue and John had been stabbed repeatedly. John's throat had been cut. Dana Wingate was also manually strangled and bludgeoned with another weapon. One of the knives discovered at the scene had been used so forcefully that the blade had bent approximately twenty-five degrees.
But it didn’t end with the murders—twelve year old Tina Sharp was missing, presumably abducted from the scene.
Three young children were alive found in a bedroom adjacent to the crime scene. Greg and Rick Sharp, ten and five years old respectively, apparently slept through it all. Justin, a twelve-year-old family friend, was the sole eyewitness.
Justin’s statements, however, would prove a major source of confusion in the decades to come, as his recounting of the event would change first under a hurried hypnosis with the County Sheriff, then under a polygraph, and would change once again under professional hypnosis much later in his adult life.
The case would come to be called “Cabin 28” after the location, or “The Keddie Murders”, and is said to be a part of the inspiration for the recent movie “The Strangers”.
Twenty-nine years later, the Keddie murders officially remain unsolved.
It seems a simple, if brutal crime—but there are elements to it that are utterly baffling, both in the crime scene itself and among the circumstances, people and events surrounding it.
One thing is clear: nothing about this case is simple.
Keddie holds many skeletons in its closets. There were, in 1981, so many potential perps in town you could have stood in the main street, thrown a dart with your eyes closed and hit one. The Sharp family were, in this idyllic little resort town, surrounded by child molesters, drug runners, professional criminals, corrupt cops and businessmen, habitual transients and at least one known serial killer.
Martin Smartt, the stepfather of Justin, would become a prime suspect, along with his friend John Boubede, a man who would prove to have a long and violent criminal history as a bank robber and one of Chicago's "Candy Bandits". He was also closely associated with Jim Rini, a former mob enforcer linked to the 1957 disappearance of investigative reporter Amelia Zelko.
There were no arrests made. Smartt was allowed to leave town that same day. Boubede was also cut loose, despite highly suspicious behaviour like insisting on his suffering impotence, lying about being a former cop and carrying fake ID.
Dogs were called in, days later, to help in the search for Tina Sharp. Her skull would be discovered three years later and ninety-five miles from the crime scene. The rest of her remains were never found.
It was discovered that her teacher, now an RSO, had an obsession with the child and he too became a suspect.
Robert Silveria was around at the time, and was even employed by Plumas County at one point. That he’d been to Keddie is highly likely; he would be later linked to a murder in a hobo camp nearby.
Even the owner of the resort had once been a suspect in a similar murder.
Several of the men living a stone’s throw from cabin 28 were said to be “creepy” around children, and the resort’s caretaker has been described as a chronic peeping tom. More than one RSO was connected to the case, closely or incidentally.
Evidence held by LE was destroyed or lost. Leads were not followed. Among the various forums dedicated to helping solve the crime and offer the family support over the years, the general consensus has been that LE really dropped the ball on this one.
One good move on LE’s part was to consult John Douglas—I am unable to find the date of that consultation, or to what extent Mr. Douglas was consulted, but he offered the following profile on the killers:
"... The crime scene reflects that the offender responsible for these murders exhibited great control if he, in fact, acted alone. The crime scene reflects that he did not precisely plan on killing all the victims. With exception of a .177-caliber pellet recovered at the crime scene, all of the 'weapons' appear to have come from the residence of the victims (i.e., steak knife, hammer, etc.). This indicates that killing the victims was in all probability an afterthought.
In order for the subject to gain and maintain control of the victims, he would have had to have some assistance. It appears that victim Dana Wingate was not killed in the same fashion as the other two victims (beaten but not stabbed) and was made comfortable by receiving a cushion from the couch to rest his head on prior to his execution. Wingate may have been utilized to assist in the binding of the victims. Statements made by associates support that he would probably succumb if threatened, rather than strike back at an assailant.
Blood is observed on the feet of Glenna Sharp to indicate she was alive when she walked in a pool of blood. This profiler does not know at this writing whose blood was on the feet of Glenna Sharp, noting that this information could modify this profile.
According to investigative reports, Glenna Sharp was covered with a blanket after she was killed. This blanket came from her bed. This one act on the part of this offender(s) is probably the key as to who is responsible for the murders in part or whole..."
Decades passed. As far as the public eye was concerned, this crime may have simply faded off into statistic status, were it not for teacher Josh Hancock setting his students the task of producing a documentary, an assignment for which he agreed to make one of his own.
One of his students suggested he look into the then twenty-five-year-old Keddie murders as a topic, and Josh soon became fascinated with the case, which wound up taking over all his spare time.
Hancock finished the documentary in 2004, the same year that the now-infamous cabin 28 was torn down to discourage ghost-hunters from trespassing on the site. But one documentary wasn’t enough—the murders remained unsolved, while the strange and often bewildering facts and rumours surrounding the case only became an increasingly tangled web.
More suspects were revealed as time went on, theories and rumours abounded, forum communities flourished and some were subject to strange internet attacks (as was Hancock himself), people volunteering information lied or could not recall details so many years after the fact. The case was still as clear as mud. And still no resolution for the Sharps or the Wingates.