Oxygen Digital is kicking off its first-ever themed month in June with Crimes of the '80s. We'll explore big trends (drug cartels), sensational cases ("The Preppy Killer"), the decade's most lethal and infamous serial killers (The Night Stalker, The Grim Sleeper) and more.
Glenna “Sue” Sharp—who was murdered along with her teen son, 12-year-old daughter and another teen friend of the family—had left her home in Connecticut after becoming estranged from her husband. She took off with her five children on a cross-country trek, visiting old friends and finally renting a cabin in 1980 in Keddie, California, a rundown nook of cabins at the foot of a railroad in the Sierra Nevada mountains with a population of fewer than 100. Sue made due on a $250 monthly check she received from the Navy (her husband was a veteran), food stamps and a stipend she received for being enrolled in a federal education program. While funds were tight, any lack of material objects that Sue couldn’t provide for her children was compensated for by the Sierra Nevada mountains, with its skyscraper-sized pine trees and dramatic landscapes. The Sharp kids were living in the ultimate playground.
On April 11, 1981, Sue’s 14-year-old daughter, Sheila, spent the night at a friend’s cabin, returning home to her own cabin— the now infamous cabin number 28—to discover her mom, one of her brothers (Johnny, 15) and his friend Dana Wingate (17) brutally murdered. All three victims at the crime scene had been bound with medical and electrical tape. Sue and Johnny had been stabbed and Sue had also been bludgeoned with a rifle. Wingate had been strangled and bludgeoned with some other object. It was a vicious attack, with blood splatter reaching the ceiling. Sue’s other son’s, who were ages 5 and 10, slept through the massacre in a small back room of the cabin.Sue’s 12-year-old daughter Tina was missing from the scene. The house was not ransacked or robbed, which would lead one to believe this shockingly violent crime was personal in nature.
While an investigation ensued and suspects were identified and questioned, the case eventually grew cold. Now, however, after decades of silence, there is new evidence in the case and a new sheriff named Greg Hagwood who wants to solve it. Plumas County Sheriff Hagwood had been in the same class as John Sharp and Dana Wingate in high school, and they had all worked together at the Plumas County fairground. With the murders having always haunted him, he hired a special investigator named Mike Gamberg, who also new the sharps, to look back into the case. There is a $5,000 reward offered for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.
Back in 1981, Martin Smartt and Severin John Boubede (sound like bow-buh-DAY) were two of the original suspects. While both men have died, Hagwood believes there are others who are still alive who were somehow involved in the murders.
Smartt lived next door to the Sharps in Cabin #26. Marty and John Boubede, who went by Bo, both had criminal records. In fact, Bo, according to Mike Gamberg, was associated with organized crime in Chicago and had done time for robbing a bank. The two had just recently met a VA hospital. Marty had served in Vietnam and had PTSD. Bo had attempted suicide, and when the two got out of the hospital Marty invited Bo to stay with him and his wife in their cabin.
One potentially meaningful detail is that Sue Sharp was friend’s with Marty’s wife—and had been advising her to leave him as he was abusive to her.
Investigators from the Department of Justice in Sacramento took on the case and questioned Marty and Bo. There is a lot of speculation that the investigation was not conducted properly. And some people believe there might have been a cover up. As Gamberg told the Sacramento Bee, “There are things that were done–but I think most importantly there are things that were not done that are hard to explain.”
He also told the Bee: “I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist but there are facts and circumstances—the number and the nature of which—I can’t ignore anymore,” he said. “They covered it up, is the way it sounds.”
The Sharp family, at least the ones who survived, seem to agree. Sheila Sharp, the one who had slept at a friend’s cabin and returned the next morning to discover the brutal scene, said the Bee: “I was told the suspects were told to get out of town, so to me that means it was covered up.”
One of the most damning details that would point to an investigation that was conducted poorly--at best--is that Gamberg uncovered an alleged admission of guilt by Smartt. Shortly after the murders Smartt left Keddie for Reno, Nevada, and according to a recent Sacramento Bee article, wrote his wife a letter, which ends with what sounds like a smoking gun: “I’ve paid the price of your love & now I’ve bought it with four people’s lives.”
While Smartt’s former wife told People Magazine that she didn’t remember receiving the letter and only learned about it through investigators, she did recognize Smartt’s handwriting. Gamberg said the letter was “overlooked” and never listed as evidence.
Gamberg also tracked down a therapist in Reno, Nevada, who says he heard a confession from Marty that he killed Sue Sharp, but he didn’t admit to killing the others). The therapist told Gamberg he alerted the authorities and was surprised it didn’t lead to an arrest.
The skeletal remains of the 12-year-old, Tina Sharp, who missing from the crime scene, were found three years later in a remote area of the Plumas National Forest that is 80 miles away from Keddie. Through another tip Gamberg learned that the sheriff’s office had always had an audio recording of an anonymous call — but it wasn’t Smartt or Bobede talking — who identified Tina’s remains.
The call came on the three-year anniversary of the killings – something that Gamberg and Hagwood believe is not a coincidence.
CALLER: Hello I was watching the news and they were talking about the skull they found at the Feather Falls and they asked for any help.
CALLER: And I was just wondering if they thought of the murder up in Keddie up in Plumas County a couple years ago where a 12-year-old girl was never found?
And last May, a tip led to the discovery of a hammer in a pond that was not far from the crime scene. It was in a place that would have been very difficult to locate had you not known it was there. It matches the description of a hammer Smartt says he lost shortly before the murders. Gamberg believes it's one of the murder weapons.
Both Gamberg and Hagwood believe there are still persons of interest who are alive who either took part in the murders or helped afterwards. Hagwood told The Sacramento Bee: “It’s my belief that there were more than two people who were involved in the totality of the crime–the disposal of the evidence and the abduction of the little girl. We’re convinced that there are a handful of people that fit those roles who are still alive.”
Sheila Sharp told Bee: “I actually put in my mind that I’ll probably go to my grave—that it will never be solved—and then when all this is coming out–it brought up the hope again.”
One can only imagine what Sheila has gone through in her life after witnessing the aftermath of the brutal murder of her mother and brother, and one can only hope that getting some answers will bring her and her family a little peace. If you know something, say something. The number for the Plumas County Sheriff's office is 530-283-6375. [Photo of Sue Sharp: findagrave.com]
Hosts Daryn Carp and John Thrasher chat about creepy crimes and mysterious murders... while mixing up martinis! Each episode will focus on a new crime, the crazy details and the theories about how -- and why -- it all went down.