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Tina Sharp: The Keddie Murder Case

Tina Sharp Family

In July 1979, Glenna Susan “Sue” Sharp alongside her five kids, Tina Sharp, John Sharp, Sheila Sharp, Rick Sharp, and Greg Sharp, were kicked out of their house in Connecticut by her abusive ex-navy husband, James Sharp, after splitting up. They spent the following short while shifting across the country visiting family, old friends, and neighbors until Sue decided to stay in California to live closer to her brother Don Davis.

They rented a 1-bedroom trailer located at the Claremont Trailer Village in Quincy that Don and his wife recently vacated. In November 1980, Sue and her kids shifted into the much larger 3-bedroom cabin #28, located at the Sierra Nevada resort in a nearby railroad town named Keddie. At the time they shifted into the cabin, Sue’s kids, John, Sheila, Tina, Rick, and Greg were aged 15, 14, 12, 10, and 5 respectively, with her being 36.

Tina Sue Room

Pic: Wikipedia

Keddie was an especially run-down location that had been in decline for the past few years, once being a highly profitable resort destination that now no longer brought in the crowd it once did. Cabin #28 was much the same: old, dilapidated, and cheap.

John took a small unkept room connected to the utility region in the basement downstairs, Rick and Greg shared a room near the front of the cabin, Tina and Sue shared a room near the end of the cabin. Sheila was seemingly in Oregon at the time, giving birth to a kid that was shortly put up for adoption.

She moved in with her family in mid-February 1981 and stayed in the exact room as Sue and Tina. The family had mainly been living off social welfare, food stamps, and $250 received from the Navy (due to her ex-husbands status) while she attempted to study business at the CETA, a federal education program at the time.

Despite all this, everyone enjoyed themselves. They had more area than their previous house, their garden was the forest, and all the kids had neighboring families with similar aged kids they could interact with. Everything proceeded as ordinary for the next few months, that was until April 11, 1981.

Murders and discovery

April 11 was a normal Saturday. John and his best friend Dana Wingate (aged 17) were in the nearby town Quincy, Sheila, and Tina was over at a neighboring family’s cabin, the Seabolts’. Sue was at the house with Rick, Greg, and one of their friends Justin Smartt (aged 12) who was staying for a sleepover. They all performed their normal activities through the day until it reached night-time. Greg went to bed at about 8:30 pm, then Tina around 9:30 pm after she returned from the Seabolt residence, Rick and Justin stayed up till 10:00 pm to watch Love Boat with Sue. John and Dana returned at some point later that night, and Sheila decided to stay over at the Seabolt residence for the night.

At around 7:00 am-8:00 am Sunday, April 12, Sheila left the Seabolts’ home and made her way back over to cabin #28. When she reached through the front door, she saw her brother John lying face up covered in blood, another boy (Dana) face down, and another corpse (Sue) enclosed in a yellow blanket. All three were bound with medical tape and electric cords. Sheila left the home screaming and ran back to the Seabolts’. Sheila and Mrs. Seabolt hurried to the closest working phone over at the landlords’ cabin #25 where they then called the Plumas County Sheriff Office (PSCO). As the PSCO dispatched a car, Sheila, Zonita Seabolt, and Zonta’s son, Jamie Seabolt, came back to cabin #28 to find the rest of the family. After looking through the windows, they saw Greg, Rick, and Justin sleeping in a bedroom. They woke the three by tapping on the window, and Jamie then pulled the three outside through the window to avoid them from seeing the corpses outside their room. Sheila sent Justin home, while Jamie entered the home through the back door that was left open by the murderers to check if anyone was left, potentially contaminating evidence in the process. After a sharp and fruitless search, Jamie left the home and they then all stayed outside for the police to arrive.

The first member of PCSO to reach was Deputy Hank Klement, who performed a brief search of the cabin to verify the murders. At 8:25 am, Sgt. Jerry Shaver reached and was notified by Klement along with a group of residents outside cabin #28 that a triple homicide had taken place. Klement and Shaver went back inside the home to “review the scene” again. At around 9:30 am, Sheriff Sylvester Doug Thomas and assistant Sheriff Ken Shanks reached, quickly followed by Officer Don Stoy. At this point, 5 (including 7 if you count Sheila and Jamie) people had been walking around the home, none of which knew how to protect a crime scene of this nature (supposedly). And it wasn’t until all 5 had surveyed the home did they begin taking photographs and obtaining evidence.

Closest and parallel to the door were John. His arms were resting on his abdomen with his wrists tightly wrapped in white cloth medical tape. His ankles were fastened twice and knotted with one end of a white extension cable. The cable ran across the floor over to Dana, where the other end was linked around his ankles. Dana had a different kind of much wider medical tape around his wrists and ankles. Sue had her wrists and ankles bound by the narrower tape loosely, and three varied electrical cords all tightly wrapped and knotted around the tape. She was naked from the waist down and had been gagged with her underwear, which was secured in her mouth with more tape. Her corpse was also wrapped in a yellow blanket and sheet, which was later verified to have come from Tina’s bed.

A cheap table steak knife that was utilized in the homicide was discovered inches to the left of John’s corpse and had been bent roughly 30 degrees. Another knife, as well as a hammer, were discovered at the scene. Blood splatter suggested that the killings occurred within the confinements of the living room, and preliminary reports state that all three younger boys had slept through the murders, but this was later contradicted. While they were making these reports, they forgot to see that Tina was not in the home until many hours after they started. She was then listed as missing.

Autopsies conducted on April 13 disclose the following information:

Sue had been stabbed in the chest. Her throat had also been stabbed horizontally, with the knife going through her neck, into her larynx, and nicking her spine. On the left side of her head, she had a graze and imprint that fitted the butt of a Daisy 880 Powerline BB/Pellet rifle. Sue perished from knife wounds and blunt-force trauma.

John had the right side of his throat cut. He also suffered from blunt-force trauma to the right of his head which was caused by a hammer. He had deep grazes on his left eye. John perished from knife wounds and blunt-force trauma.

Dana had many head injuries such as a laceration on the back-right of his head, and blunt-force trauma right under the laceration that was caused by a different, unknown hammer not recovered at the crime spectacle. Dana had also been manually suffocated to death. Dana perished from asphyxiation.

Initial police investigation
As soon as the investigation started, the inside and out of the home were more thoroughly scoured. Tina’s jacket, shoes, and a topped-up toolbox had been taken from the home. Blood was discovered on Tina’s bed, knife marks were found on multiple walls around the house, a bloody fingerprint was discovered inside a door frame and on a railing, and a footprint was discovered at the back of the home. The drapes had been closed, the house’s telephone had been taken off the hook and the cord had been cut from the outlet, and there had been no indications of forced entry. Jamie’s remark about the back door being left open was also taken into account. The police strongly doubted at least two murderers were there to have control over the family, and that they were in no hurry. There were blood pools and splatters in various parts of the living room too, suggesting the three were moved around. Sue’s bare feet and one of the boy’s shoes were covered in blood, revealing they were mobile and had stepped in blood before being murdered. Detectives made note of a serious lack of fingerprints and other forms of identifiable DNA left at the scene, which led investigators to think that the killers were prepared and had planned the massacre. Because forensic evidence wasn’t normally collected until the mid-1980s, any hair, skin cells, and other DNA transfers were not taken from the crime scene.

Neighbors and potential observers were also interviewed about that night. Sheila and the Seabolt family claimed they heard no noise coming from the home next to them at any point throughout the night. Nonetheless, a couple living over in cabin #16 were awakened at 1:15 am by what they defined as muffled screaming. Other unnamed neighbors stated that a dog had been barking near cabin #28 and that a porch light had been turned on at around 4:00 am too. Someone else also stated that their cats were discomforted that night, pacing around in and out of their home when they usually go right to sleep. Many neighbors, including the members of the Seabolt residence, noted a new green van parked outside the Sharps’ home at around 9:00 pm. Martin Smartt, Justin Smartt’s father made claims that a claw hammer had unexpectedly gone missing from inside his house, along with numerous other claims and tips. The problem with this was that the police never notified the public that a hammer had been used nor was the one used to hit Dana missing from the crime scene. Because of this, Martin was put at the top of the suspect list and Plumas County Sheriff Sylvester Thomas stated that Martin had been giving “endless clues” in what he heavily thinks was a try to “throw the suspicion away from him.” Besides all these tips, the police still didn’t have much to go off, that was until they earned word of a witness to the crimes, Justin Smartt.

Despite original reports listing Justin as being sleeping in the same way as Greg and Rick, Justin’s mum, Marilyn Smartt told police that Justin had potentially witnessed the crimes after he briefly described them to her.

Justin gave numerous testimonies about the events with them frequently conflicting with one another such as him witnessing the killings, just hearing them, or just dreaming of them. Nonetheless, when under the impact of hypnosis, Justin was able to give a detailed, concise, and very logical description of the events that he is thought to have witnessed.

According to Justin, he was waked up at some point throughout the night from the sounds of loud noises coming from the living room. When investigating these noises, he saw Sue talking to two men that he did not recognize. One man had a mustache, short, black, greased hair, and stood between 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m) to 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m).

The other man was clean-shaven, had long, dark blonde hair, and stood between 5 feet 11 inches (1.8 m) to 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m). Both men were described as being in their late 20s to early 30s, and both men wore gold-framed sunglasses. Justin told that at that moment, John and Dana came back home and came through the front door.

Then an indefinite intense argument broke out between the two boys and the two men, then a battle arose. Justin says Tina came out of her room, seemingly awoken from the noise, and was then instantly taken outside through the back door by one of the men. That was all Justin recalled purportedly.

Founded on Justin’s descriptions, two composite sketches were formulated by Harlan Embry, a man with no experience in forensic sketching. It is still unknown as to why police selected Harlan when they had access to the Justice Department’s and FBI’s top forensic artists.

Whilst the inquiry into the murders was taking place, the FBI was examining the disappearance of Tina. At the time, the wish was that Tina had run off and hidden out in the wilderness from the men as she was known to regularly establish forts and hideouts in the woods.

Nonetheless, after they couldn’t discover her, they began looking at her as a possible kidnapping. After two weeks on April 29, the FBI “backed off” the case and search as the California State Department of Justice was performing an “adequate job” and “made the FBI’s presence unnecessary.” Police canines were utilized to search an 8 km (5 miles) radius around the home, but nothing came up until over three years later.

Tina Sharp discovered

On April 22, 1984, three years and eleven days after the killings, a bottle collector fumbled across what seemed to be bones. On closer inspection, he found out the cranium portion of a human skull and part of a mandible right outside Camp Eighteen near Feather Falls in Butte County, a neighboring region to Keddie. Camp Eighteen was a 167 km (105 miles) drive from where Tina went missing in Keddie.

Just after the finding had been publicly announced, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office received an unidentified call that told them they had just discovered the remains of Tina Sharp. Even though this call was never documented in the case, they still had made a copy of the call that was discovered at the bottom of an evidence box in 2013 by a deputy assigned to the case.

Quickly after the call, the remains were tested by a forensic pathologist and verified to be that of Tina in June 1984. Near the area where the remains were discovered, police found out other items of interest. They discovered a blue nylon jacket, a blanket, a pair of Levi Strauss jeans with a removed back pocket, and a vacant medical tape dispenser.

Tina’s finding brought the Keddie killings case back into the light again and more investigating was done as well as the creation of new and resurgence of old rumors. Theories about the crimes being ritualistic or associated with drug trafficking were rejected by the Sheriff as he stated there were never any drugs discovered in the home.

Police additionally ruled out the likelihood of serial murderers Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole who had been active in the area. Numerous people thought that the police did not examine some good leads and that they didn’t test or even dismissed obvious evidence. But regardless, the case went cold. They had discovered Tina, and nothing significant ever came from it.

Suspects

Although no one was ever sentenced, or even charged for the crime, the police had vital justifications to believe that one pair of suspects were responsible: Martin Smartt and previously unmentioned John “Bo” Boubede, an ex-convict with numerous robberies and home invasion convictions, plus several associations with the Chicago Outfit mafia.

When questioning Martin, he claimed that on the night of the killing, he, his wife, and Bo had stopped by at cabin #28 and asked Sue to go to the bar with them. Sue refused, so they left without her. They left the bar fairly quickly as Martin hated the music they were playing there and was adamantly complaining about it.

When they got home, Marilyn (Martin’s wife) decided to go to bed at 11:00 pm. Despite just leaving, Martin and Bo told would be going back to the bar for more drinks and then said police they came back home an hour later at nearly midnight. Around 2:00 am, Marylin, said she woke up to discover the two men burning an unidentified item/s in the woodstove.

Marylin also claimed Martin “hated Johnny Sharp with a passion”, and Bo felt similar due to John calling him a “punk.” Reports also explained Martin was a hostile man who regularly abused Marylin, and when Marylin talked to Sue about this, he apparently went “ballistic”.

Bo had frequently lied to residents of Keddie telling them that he was a police officer, and when someone in the sheriff’s department allegedly tipped off Martin and Bo that they had become suspects, they both rapidly left California.

In a 2008 documentary regarding the killings, Marylin claims that she genuinely thinks Martin and Bo were responsible for the killings. Nonetheless, in the same documentary, Sheriff Doug Thomas told that he had already done a polygraph test on Martin and that he had passed successfully.

In 2016, an article was publicized by The Sacramento Bee (a credible Californian newspaper) that states that when Martin left his family after the killings, he went to Reno, Nevada. Soon after reaching, he sent a letter to Marylin that covered struggles in their connection. The letter concluded with: “I’ve paid the price of your love & now that I’ve bought it with four people’s lives, you tell me we are through. Great! What else do you want!”

The letter was disregarded by the police and not acknowledged as evidence. A counselor that Martin regularly visited alleged that he confessed to the killings of Sue and Tina but said he “didn’t have anything to do with the boys.” He allegedly said he murdered Tina to prevent her from recognizing him as she had “witnessed the whole thing.”

Martin Smartt perished from cancer in Portland, Oregon, in June 2000.

John “Bo” Boubede perished in Chicago in 1988.

Cabin #28 was demolished in 2004.

Further improvements


On March 24, 2016, a hammer was found out at the bottom of a local pond in Keddie. The hammer was similar to the one that Martin claimed to have lost almost 35 years prior. The hammer was taken into evidence by Plumas County Special Investigator Mike Gamberg. Plumas County Sheriff Hagwood who was sixteen at the time of the killings and was a personal friend with the Sharp family publicly stated:

“The location it was discovered … it would have intentionally been put there. It would not have been accidentally misplaced.” Gamberg also stated that at that time, they were assessing six unnamed suspects.

In April 2018, Gamberg stated that they had managed to regain DNA from a single piece of medical tape at the crime scene and that the DNA positively fitted that of a known living suspect.

No new data surrounding the Keddie killings has been publicly shared since.

Summary

Mother of five is kicked out of her house by abusive dad, the family of six finally find themselves living in cabin #28 in a resort in Keddie, California.

On April 11, 1981, the oldest daughter Sheila stays over at a neighbor’s home whilst another stays over at hers. When she comes back home the following morning, she discovers her elder brother, his friend, and her mum killed while her two younger brothers and their friend are asleep in bed.

Three killing weapons are located, a fourth is missing. Turns out the younger brothers’ friend, Justin, saw the murders and tell police what the two murderers look like. Also turns out Sheila’s younger sister is missing, who is discovered dead 3 years later about 100 miles away from home.

Police suspect the murderers were Justin’s dad, Martin, and his ex-convict friend, John “Bo” Boubede. Over the years more people, especially Martin’s wife, talk about how they also think it was Martin and Bo who killed them. Police can never verify they did it, and Martin and Bo ultimately die.

Nearly 35 years after the killings, the missing killing weapon is found in a pond. Another two years later, police declare openly they have found one of the murderers’ DNA on some tape in the home and have related it to a known living suspect.

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