Keddie Cabin murders

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Keddie Cabin murders
Keddie murders victims.jpg
Perpetrator: Unknown
Date: April 11 - 12, 1981
Location: Keddie, California, U.S.
Motive: Unknown
Crimes: Murder
Kidnapping
Mutilation
Torture
In the 1980s, the town of Keddie, California was referred to as 'the place the American Dream went to die'; following a steep economic downturn, it became a place to escape rather than to settle. However, most still considered it a safe enough community to at least raise a family. It was the type of place where you could leave your door unlocked at night without fear of intruders, and everyone had their fair share of secrets and hidden pasts, but they weren't looking to disturb their newfound peace. There were whispers of drug dealings and a small theft here and there, but mostly minor crimes. That is, until April 1981, when three members of the Sharp family and a family friend turned up dead in Cabin 28 - a quadruple homicide that, as of 2016, has gone unsolved for 35 years.
~ Cayleigh Elise, Dark Matters #6: The Keddie Cabin Massacre

The Keddie Cabin murders, also called the Keddie murders, the Keddie Cabin Massacre, and the Cabin 28 murders, were a quadruple homicide that occurred on the night of April 11 - 12, 1981, at the Keddie resort in California, United States. An intruder or intruders broke into cabin #28 of the Keddie resort and restrained three of the victims - John Sharp, Sue Sharp and Dana Wingate - and savagely beat and stabbed them to death. A fourth victim, Tina Sharp, was abducted and remained a missing person until April 1984, when her remains were found in Butte County. The killer or killers have never been identified.

History

In April 1981, Sue Sharp and her children - 15-year-old John, 14-year-old Sheila, 12-year-old Tina, 10-year-old Rick and 5-year-old Greg - were residing in cabin #28 of the resort town of Keddie after moving away to escape Sue's abusive husband James. On April 11 Sheila departed to stay with the Seabolt family in a neighbouring cabin, leaving the rest of the family behind in cabin #28 with John's friend Dana Wingate and Rick and Greg's friend Justin Smartt.

Around 7:00 am the following day, Sheila returned to cabin #28 and discovered the dead bodies of Sue, John and Dana in the living room. All three were tied up with electrical cords and medical tape. Sue had her mouth gagged with a blue bandana and her own panties and was nude from the waist down. She had been stabbed in the chest and throat, the latter wound going through her larynx and nicking her spine, and an imprint on the side of her head was found matching the butt of a BB gun. John and Dana had both suffered multiple head injuries; John's throat had also been slashed and Dana had been manually strangled. An autopsy determined that John and Sue had died from knife wounds and blunt force trauma, and Dana had died from asphyxiation. Tina was missing, and Rick, Greg and Justin were unharmed in their room. One bloody hammer and two bloody knives, one of which had been bent at roughly 30 degrees, were found near the bodies.

The investigation into the murders found several leads. Justin Smartt claimed to have been awake during the murders and to have seen two men in the living room tying up John, Sue and Dana and dragging Tina out of the cabin. However, Justin's account was often inconsistent and he once claimed to have confused what he actually saw with dreams he had that night. Rumours that the murders may have been drug-related, including claims that Dana Wingate had stolen a quantity of LSD from local drug dealers, were dismissed by Plumas County Sheriff Doug Thomas, who cited the lack of any drugs or drug paraphernalia in cabin #28. Serial killers Ottis Toole and Henry Lee Lucas were briefly investigated but no evidence was found linking them to the murders.

On April 22, 1984, three years after the murders, a man discovered the cranium portion of a human skull and part of a jawbone at Camp Eighteen in Feather Falls, Butte County. Clothes similar to the ones Tina Sharp was wearing when she disappeared were found nearby. A forensic pathologist identified the remains of those of Tina in June 1984.

The Keddie killer or killers has never been identified. The main suspects were Martin Smartt, the father of Justin Smartt, and his roommate Bo Boubede. Just after the murders, Martin Smartt told police that a claw hammer had inexplicably gone missing from his house. Martin's wife Marilyn claimed that on the evening of April 11 she had left Martin and Boubede drinking at the bar, and had woken up at 2:00 am the following day to see the two men burning something in the wood stove. She also claimed that Martin hated John Sharp with a passion and had "gone ballistic" when he found out that Sue Sharp had been giving her marriage counselling advice (he had been accused of domestic abuse against her on numerous occasions). Martin Smartt's former therapist claims that Smartt confessed the murders to him. It may also be significant that the only people in cabin #28 not killed were Justin Smartt and those sleeping in the room with him. Bo Boubede died in 1988, and Martin Smartt died in 2000.

In recent years accusations of a cover-up by the police have gained traction. Cabin #28 was demolished in 2004, allegedly to conceal evidence. When the case was re-opened in 2013, several items of evidence were found in boxes of case files that were never officially entered into evidence, including a recording of an anonymous phone call identifying the remains found in Feather Falls as Tina Sharp and a letter to Marilyn Smartt allegedly written by Martin Smartt reading "I've paid the price of your love & now I've bought it with four people's lives." Plumas County Sheriff Mike Gamberg criticised the handling of evidence in the case by contemporary police. DNA testing on surviving evidence was begun, including on a claw hammer resembling the one missing from Martin Smartt's house that was found in a nearby river in March 2016. However, the case remains unsolved.

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