Keddie murders revisited
Following the clues leading to murder
Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series about Plumas County’s unsolved infamous Keddie murders. Some readers might find the following information unsettling or objectionable.
Was the 36-year-old mother of five the targeted victim in a plan that ended with the deaths of four people in 1981?
At least two investigators into the 37-year-old case believe the evidence tells them that Martin “Marty” Smartt and Severin John “Bo” Boubede and accomplices allegedly intended to do great bodily harm to Glenna “Sue” Sharp.
Plumas County Sheriff’s special investigator Mike Gamberg has spent years studying and pondering the remaining evidence in the Keddie murders.
Sue Sharp’s murder was allegedly premeditated, said dmac, an online investigator for website Kiddie28.com.
Dmac believes the crimes were premeditated based on how the chief suspects behaved that night, and what they allegedly took to cabin 28 — medical tape, knives, a hammer and probably a Daisy 880 pellet gun. Dmac draws his proof in that he learned that a pellet probably from that weapon was found on the floor between the two boys’ bodies. Part of its sights were broken off and found in the living room. It appears to have been used to batter one of the boys, and Sue’s face, he said.
Gamberg knew the two teenage boys who died sometime during the night of April 11 and/or the early morning hours of April 12, 1981. Although he was kept away from the case by his superiors in the sheriff’s office, that doesn’t mean he didn’t maintain interest in it over the years.
In 2013, Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood brought the private investigator and former deputy out of retirement and handed him the Keddie case. Since then, he’s moving closer to recognizing the truth of where the evidence is leading.
Dmac got interested in the Keddie murders in 2010 and has been researching them since. Once he and Gamberg came to understand and trust one another, they began sharing information.
Who were the Sharps?
Sue Sharp left her allegedly abusive husband, James Sharp, in 1979. He was in the military; she was a stay-at-home mother. She and her five children left North Carolina and headed indirectly to Quincy because her brother Don Davis lived in the area.
At first, she rented a small mobile home in the Claremont Trailer Park. James Sharp is reported to have visited the family in 1979, but didn’t return. That November, Sue Sharp moved her family to Keddie and into a larger home.
Although cabin 28 had two bedrooms, 15-year-old John Sharp moved into a room in the basement that could only be accessed from the outside. The doors were traditionally kept unlocked so that John could access the upstairs, including the only bathroom. The two younger boys shared one bedroom and Sue and her daughters, Sheila and Tina, shared the other bedroom.
Neither Sue nor her children received support from James Sharp, according to Gamberg.
To supplement her small income of $250 from the Navy, food stamps and a part time job at the Quincy Elks Lodge, Sue Sharp enrolled in a California Education Training Act program. For that she received a small stipend. Sue participated in a typing class at Feather River College as part of the education program.
Also attending that class were Marilyn and Martin “Marty” Smartt, Gamberg said.
The Smartts had been together by this time since sometime in 1979.
The two families lived in cabins that were relatively close to one another in Keddie. In reality, Keddie is a small community wedged between Spanish Creek and the railroad line. Although Sue Sharp was described as someone who kept to herself, other residents would have quickly learned who moved to town.
In looking at an aerial view of Keddie in 1981, the Sharps’ cabin 28 was in the middle of a block not far from the hotel. Next door, cabin 27 was lived in by the Seabolt family. These cabins were on Keddie Station Loop Road. Across a narrow street called Spanish Oaks Lane and right in line with the other two cabins is cabin 26 where the Smartts, and Marilyn’s two sons and his pal Boubede lived. (Although cabins 28 and 27 were demolished along with others in the early 2000s, cabin 26 still stands.)
In 1981, Keddie had a hotel complete with bar and restaurant, a general store, a post office and a boarding house where some Feather River College students lived. Railroad employees still rented cabins or owned homes year round in this once active summer resort.
The Smartt connection
Smartt was living for a time in Portland and then joined Marilyn at her aunt’s home in Burney. The aunt, Joan Andrews, told a member of the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office that Marilyn told her of an alleged incident concerning Martin Smartt when they were in Phoenix, according to dmac. “Martin got into an argument with his father, and went out and purchased items to make a bomb, to blow up his father’s house.”
Andrews said that while living with her, she allegedly saw Smartt “practice throwing a hatchet quite a bit, and kept the hatchet in his residence.” He also tried to purchase guns during that time.
Andrews also said that Smartt “spent a considerable amount of time reading the Bible and was fanatical about other people’s morals,” according to information from dmac.
Although Marilyn said that her husband allegedly tried to run over her and one of her sons once, and in 1980 allegedly pulled a knife on her and threatened to cut her, she stayed with him.
Smartt arrived in Keddie sometime in 1980 and went to work as a cook in the hotel restaurant. That’s when they moved into cabin 26. Smartt lost his job just prior to the Keddie murders, Gamberg said. Having interviewed former resort co-owner Jan Albin, Gamberg said Albin had more to say, but chose to leave it that Smartt’s cooking wasn’t satisfactory.
Gamberg said Smartt was supporting himself and his family by allegedly selling drugs and manufacturing hashish. This was allegedly happening during and after his job as a cook.
Gamberg said that at this time Keddie had a large drug house. He knew who ran it, who dealt drugs and who were some of the runners.
Smartt was of particular interest for a number of reasons. “He was a player,” Gamberg said, meaning that he allegedly cheated on his wife. One of the women he was allegedly involved with was Sue Sharp.
And Sue was said to be counseling Marilyn Smartt, Marty’s wife, about leaving her husband because he was allegedly abusive and wasn’t faithful to her, he said.
Gamberg called it a complicated triangle. But then, Smartt wasn’t the only man Sue Sharp was allegedly involved with.
Gamberg believes that Smartt learned of Sue and Marilyn’s talks. He described Smartt as a very possessive, jealous man. He said that he’s learned that Marilyn was allegedly the same way. These factors played into why the two men and probably others went to cabin 28 sometime that night.
Allegedly, Smartt and his companions were going to teach Sue Smart a lesson.
And they came prepared.
Dmac disagrees. He doesn’t believe that Sue Sharp was counseling Marilyn Smartt. “When I heard that theory, I knew it was a big … lie,” he said recently.
Dmac does agree with Gamberg in that he believes Marty Smartt and Sue were involved.
Gamberg and dmac agree that John Sharp, his younger sister Tina and Dana Wingate got in the way — and for that they died.
Following the evidence
Gamberg has been working toward solving the Keddie murders with some incredible results.
In 2016, he announced recovering a hammer matching the description Smartt gave of his own hammer. He told Department of Justice special agents in an interview shortly after the murders that it went missing about the same time. In discussing this, Smartt went on to say that whoever took the hammer would have been wiser to take his hatchet, according to information from dmac.
Gamberg also announced recovering a hunting knife in a pile of debris in Keddie and a recorded message sent from Butte County’s dispatch to the sheriff’s office.
All three items are in the possession of the DOJ and the FBI is awaiting forensic analysis. That’s a slow and expensive process. Gamberg has been waiting for two years and understands that a 37-year-old unsolved murder is a lower priority. Despite that, Gamberg keeps reminding them he’s waiting for the results.
Gamberg is optimistic that the man’s voice on the tape suggesting remains discovered near Feather Falls were those of Tina Sharp would match another recording in the sheriff’s possession.
Dmac finds everything about the discovery of Tina’s remains suspicious. First, there was the find. He doesn’t believe that a real bottle hunter happened to stumble on the girl’s remains three years to the day of the murders and her disappearance. He believes that someone knew where Tina would be found and happened to make it public by having someone not directly connected to the Keddie case make the discovery.
Dmac said he’s been to Camp 18, 5 miles from Feather Falls.
“Camp 18 is hard to find. I knew where it was from researching it on Google Maps and Earth, and became quite conversant with the road systems and networks. When it came time to going there, those roads are not labeled nor are they mapped correctly,” dmac wrote May 22, 2016 on the Cabin 28/Keddie Murders Forum. “As much work as I’d done, I still got lost twice trying to get there.”
“Where Tina was found was way off the dirt road, in the wild. The location of her skull is the last place a bottle hunter would be looking for bottles near Camp 18, which is another reason I believe Pedrini’s (the man who discovered the remains) involvement is less than accidental,” dmac said.
But Tina Sharp’s remains were found and identified in 1984, regardless of how that came about. Dmac’s analysis of the find adds just another wrinkle among many in the case.
One tip that led to the news flurry in 2016 came about in helping Gamberg find a hammer possibly used in the fatal beatings of the three victims.
Gamberg said his tip came by way of someone who attended a wedding in the Keddie area. A woman lost a ring, so the man returned with a metal detector in an effort to recover it. What he discovered was a hammer in the dried up pond near the resort entrance. He left the hammer and eventually contacted dmac, who in turn, contacted Gamberg.
Gamberg said together he and the unnamed man went to the pond. By then, it was full of water, but they did manage to recover the hammer. It matches the physical description of the one Smartt said he lost.
The pond was a natural place to conceal something. Someone leaving the murder scene could have tossed in the evidence, Gamberg explained. There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that special agents or anyone from the sheriff’s office checked the pond for evidence in 1981.
What Gamberg is still hoping is that once decades of rust are teased away from the hammer and knife, some sort of evidence will be discovered, and that evidence will link someone or perhaps several suspects to the murder.
This isn’t all of the evidence Gamberg has recovered. There’s the DNA match to a living person of interest. Gamberg and the sheriff know whom the individual is and where to find this person. What they haven’t disclosed is if or when they might question that person again or if they’re considering an arrest.
Love letter confession?
There’s also a handwritten letter from Smartt to his wife. “If it isn’t a confession it’s damned sure close,” Gamberg said recently.
The letter, on flowery yellow stationery, was written just weeks after the murders. By this point, Smartt and Boubede had been interviewed and allowed to leave Plumas County and were in Klamath Falls, Oregon, according to Gamberg.
It’s a love letter in which Smartt is begging and demanding his wife come back to him.
The letter states in part, “I’ve paid the price of your love and now that I’ve bought it with four people’s lives, you tell me we are through. Great! What else do you want?”
Smartt signed the letter, Gamberg said.
Marilyn Smartt reportedly moved out of cabin 26 April 12, the same day the murders were discovered. Gamberg and dmac know exactly where she went and why — it was no surprise. Although she was angry that her husband was having an affair with Sue Sharp, she too was allegedly seeing someone else.
Marilyn Smartt reportedly gave the sheriff’s office the letter at some time in the past. When she was asked about it, Gamberg said she claimed not to remember it. She did however recognize her former husband’s handwriting when she was shown the letter.
The letter was addressed to Marilyn at their former Keddie Post Office box.
Smartt gave his address in Klamath Falls.
Gamberg said that Marilyn is remarried and still alive. He also knows where she lives.
In September, the case could realize even more concrete information as well as the opportunity to better understand existing or new evidence.
Gamberg is invited to present his evidence to a group of approximately 80 retired crime scene experts. These individuals include forensic professionals, current and former FBI profilers, homicide investigators, scientists, psychologists, prosecutors and coroners.
Gamberg said he learned of the Vidocq Society and contacted them. They were interested and he was invited to send them a synopsis of the case. They accepted the case to review and will pay his expenses when he visits them in Philadelphia this fall.
Gamberg said he is optimistic that these experts will provide valuable advice and direction in the case. By September, he expects to have more evidence to give them.
If anyone has any knowledge about the Keddie murder case, he or she is invited to call the Keddie hotline at 283-6360.