The Horrifying Murders of Cabin 28

Keddie, a small resort town in Northern California, is a whole bunch of nothing. Seriously, there is really no reason for anyone to know it exists. Even the residents of Keddie, which total a shocking 66 people, could be forgiven if they forgot that they lived in Keddie. If Keddie is known for anything, it is how much drug runners and pedophiles like hanging out in the area. It’s easy to imagine why, with so few residents around, there far less of a chance getting caught doing anything illegal. These weenies don’t really live in Keddie, they just tend to travel through it a lot, if the internet is to be trusted.

That isn’t to say that all the people of Keddie, California are jerks. Far from it – the actual residents are, by all accounts, pretty nice. Take, for example, Gary Mollath. Mollath owned a once popular resort in Keddie that had fallen on hard times. With a slew of empty log Cabins on his hands, Mollath decided to rent them out to low income families. Families like the Sharps.

Glenna Sharp, who went by Sue, was a single mother of five, found herself living in Cabin 28 doing her best to raise her kids. Two years earlier, her abusive husband kicked Sue and their children out of their home, and since then, Sue had been looking for something more permanent. She hoped that Keddie could be the home her kids needed.

The Sharps were poor, but they were well liked in the town. The kids, John, 15, Sheila, 14, Tina, 12, Greg, 10, and Rick, 5, were your average kids of the 70s/80s. They rode bikes, watched Saturday morning cartoons, vanished for hours but always showed up in time for dinner. On some occasions, John, along with his best friend Dana Wingate, would hitchhike around the area.

So it was on April 11, 1981. John and Dana hitchhiked over to Quincy, a neighboring town, and spent the day goofing about. As they filled their time being teenagers in a podunk town, the rest of the Sharp kids played around the Cabins. I have to be honest with you, part of the problem in a story like this – a story in such a small town that tends to be a layover more than a final destination is just how little information there is about the moments leading up to the events. This is what is known…

In the afternoon, John and Dana started their hitchhiking back to Keddie. As the two teens made their way back home, Greg and Rick Sharp asked their mom if their friend, Justin could sleep over. Justin, who lived in Cabin 26 with his mom Marilyn and his stepdad Martin Smartt was a common face at the Sharp Cabin. Sheila would be spending the night at a sleepover in Cabin 27. I don’t have kids myself, and I was never a fan of sleepovers when I was a wee one, but I suppose the trading of kids for a night if pretty common.

On the morning of the 12th, Sheila made her way back home, walking through the dewy grass of the early spring. Assuming that her sleepover went the usual sleepover fashion, it’s safe to assume that she had a fun night with her friends. We can imagine the girl walking past the Cabins as the birds chirped with a smile on her face.

That smile vanished the moment Sheila opened the door to Cabin 28. A wall of stench hit her like a fist, watering her eyes. As Sheila walked in, as she adjusted to the low light, she saw her brother John.

John was lying face-up on the living room floor with blood framing his head. Lying next to him was a second body, Dana, laying face down. Both boys were bound by medical tape and electrical appliance wire. Between them lay a steak knife bent at a 25 degree angle, and behind them, Sheila saw a yellow blanket covering a third body.

Sheila ran out of her home screaming.

Deputy Hank Klement was the first officer to arrive at the scene. By the time he arrived, neighbors had gotten the other children in Cabin 28 out, pulling them through windows so that they would not have to see the nightmare in the living room. Klement pulled the yellow blanket, underneath was Sue wearing a terrycloth robe, her underwear shoved into her mouth and held there with tape, Sue’s legs were bound with an extension cord.

Both Sue and John had been stabbed multiple times, including wounds to their throats. The force of the stabbings was so strong that the knife bent. They had both been struck with a claw hammer as well. Dana had been strangled and hit with a blunt object that was not the hammer used on the other two. There was also a broken BB gun and knife marks on the walls, suggesting that the victims fought back, though somehow no one, not even the children in the next room, heard a thing.

In the chaos it took over an hour before anyone noticed that one of the Sharp children, Tina, was missing.

Right off the bat, the local cops suspected Martin Smartt. Martin had been at the local bar, The Backdoor, that night and had more than a few drinks. Martin was a Vietnam vet who had a bad temper that got worse when he drank. That night, he was visibly angered by the music being played at The Backdoor, which he complained to the manager about. So angered by the music was Smartt that he left the bar, taking his wife and buddy, Bo Boubede, with him. Martin and Bo returned to the bar later that night, but Marilyn stayed home.

Justin, Martin’s stepson and one of the boys who was in Cabin 28 but never heard a thing, depending on which reports you read, either was hypnotized or recalled a dream he had that seems to suggest he knew more than he was letting on. In Justin’s own words…

I am on a passenger boat. Somebody got thrown out and there was a fight. He had long black hair and his hair was combed back. He had black glasses with a gold frame and dark lenses. He had a moustache, jean jacket, blue jeans and wore cowboy boots. He has a hammer in his left hand and it had a wooden handle. Johnny and Dana fought the man. Dana was almost drunk. Johnny was thrown overboard and then Dana. The man ran away. A body was lying on the bow. Sue, she had black hair and a sheet over her. I looked under the sheet and she was slit in the chest. Everybody gathered around her and wanted to go to shore. I was down by Sue, trying to take care of her. All the blood was coming down and I was trying to patch her up with a blue and white flowered rag. I threw the rag in the water.

Later, Justin admitted that he had woken up and saw what happened. Justin claimed that he watched from the bedroom door as two men stood over Sue who was laying on a couch. John and Dana entered the Cabin and began to argue with the men, leading to a fight. One of the mystery men, struck Dana with a hammer, dropping the boy to the floor. The other man knocked down John. The two men tied up the teens just as Tina came out from her room. One of the men grabbed Tina and took her out the back of the Cabin. The other man pulled out a knife and stabbed Sue in the chest.

According to Justin’s mom and Martin Smartt’s wife, Marilyn, Martin had a serious hate for John Sharp. She also claimed to see her husband burning something in the early hours of the 12th. Police interviewed both Marin and Bo, and while the stories of the two men is filled with massive problems – Bo claimed to be a police officer, which he wasn’t, and that he was Marilyn’s uncle, which he wasn’t. Both men changed the time they spent at the bar during their interviews as well. Possibly the most obvious moment of oddness was when Martin was asked about his stepson’s story changing. Martin suggested that Justin could have seen something “without me detecting him.”

Now, I’m no detective, but when a guy basically says he was a part of a murder, I would ask him some follow up questions. The police didn’t.

They also failed to ask Martin any follow up questions when he randomly brought up that his hammer was missing.

Oh, and one more bit – Martin said that if he had committed the murders, he wouldn’t have wasted so much time – he would have done it fast and gotten out.

No follow up questions were asked. Not a one.

The case went cold until 1984 when a skull was found in Feather Falls, some 30 miles from Keddie. In a not very shocking turn of events when you consider how horrible the cops handled everything, they didn’t figure out that the skull belonged to Tina until they received an anonymous call, seemingly from the killer, that the skull belonged to the girl.

No one has ever been charged with the murders.

Keddie became a ghost town in the mid-80s. The Cabins went into disarray, occupied by squatters. Stories of Cabin 28 being haunted started to spread, with even Gary Mollath claiming to have seen some weird stuff.

Keddie is on something of a comeback with new owners. Old Cabins have been torn down and news one have been built. Cabin 28 no longer exists.

This May, during the renovations, one of the hammers used in the murders was found just a stone’s throw away from where Cabin 28 once stood (again, how fucking terrible were these police?). Special investigator Mike Gamberg and Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood, both of whom grew up with John Sharp and Dana Wingate, have taken on the case, and are pretty sure Marty Smartt and Bo Boubede are the two of the men behind the murders. While Smartt and Boubede are both dead now, Hagwood is certain that there were others at the scene. More to it, he believes that the police at the time weren’t incompetent – Hagwood is almost certain that the murderers were being protected.

This is a feeling that Sheila Sharp shares as well, and when you look at how Smartt all but admitted to the murders in his interview, it is hard not to agree with them.

If you want more information on the Cabin 28 murders, there is a rather comprehensive documentary on Youtube…

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