Filed under: Cabin 28

Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders Movie

First things first: HAPPY 4th OF JULY, Y’ALL!

Okay, now that’s out of the way.

This blog receives a ton of hits from people searching for information about the Keddie Murders. Lately that’s been because there was a claim that the movie The Strangers was partly inspired by the massacre in Cabin 28, but I think that was a load of bullshit cooked up by some viral marketing idiot.

You can click this link to read the blog entries I’ve written about Keddie, but my stronger recommendation is for you to visit KeddieMurdersMovie.com and watch Josh Hancock’s documentary about this chilling unsolved crime. He’s posted it in 6 parts on this page.

I’ve embedded part 1 above to encourage reader interest, because part 1 hooked me right away, and I know a good deal of the story. This post will be short for now because I’m going back to watch the rest of it.

I’m already wondering why Hancock’s documentary hasn’t seen wider distribution — part 1 was professionally-rendered and compelling. The documentarian’s art is in letting the subject speak for itself. It’s clear to me just 7 minutes in that Josh Hancock knows how to do that.

I will update this post after I finish watching Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders.

UPDATE

Josh Hancock’s documentary is stripped-down, straightforward, and it hits home. Make no mistake — if your interest in true crime documentaries or anything else true crime-related is more towards the macabre, gory end of the spectrum, you will be disappointed by Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders. Actually, if you’re that sort of true crime fan (you should see some of the disgusting search strings that somehow bring people here), you can just get the hell off my blog right now.

I digress.

Anyone who appreciates a respectful, measured approach to telling such a terrifying story, a human approach, will be impressed by this documentary. I certainly was.

I truly hope more attention comes to Mr. Hancock’s work, as he managed to use minimal resources to create a full, living portrait of the people and the place impacted by this unsolved family murder. Bare-bones as it is, Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders still manages to leave the kind of lasting impression true-crime centric shows with massive budgets (48 Hours, Dateline) strive to make. Those shows go for broke with sonorous voice-overs, graphics and editing. Hancock’s cleverness is in his minimalist approach: simple, understated music and well-framed shots of key people in natural light. Sometimes, that’s all you need. The story then tells itself.

If the Keddie case is one of those unsolved mysteries that plagues you, this account will leave you truly unsettled, haunted, and perhaps a bit sad. Peaceful pine forests and remote, quiet mountain retreats will never look the same again.

One more plug for the site:

KeddieMurdersMovie.com.

See also:

http://www.youtube.com/user/keddiemurdersmovie.

UPDATE: Josh Hancock notes in the comments left on this entry that there’s a new website for this film:

http://www.keddiemurdersfilm.com/

Take a look, and watch the movie. Great work on the site(s) and the film, Josh.

Unsolved: The Keddie Murders

NOTE: In the coming weeks I will be re-visiting some crime stories I’ve covered on this and other blogs in the past. I will sometimes re-post old entries from old sites with updates, and will write new posts as well. This post is, in a loose way, part of that effort. When I first referenced the horrific Keddie Murders some 3 years ago, it was really just in passing; the murders of the Groene family in May, 2005 by serial killer Joseph Edward Duncan III (see the best resource on the Web relevant to Duncan and his crimes here) resembled the Keddie Murders in many respects. There was ultimately a huge difference between the two crimes — Duncan was arrested and admitted to what he did. The Keddie Murders remain unsolved.

I decided to write a post about that horrific night in Cabin 28 because this blog has recently seen a spate of search referrals about the Keddie case. I imagine this is due to the fact that a movie titled The Strangers premieres on May 30. It stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman and according to Wikipedia, may be based in part on the Keddie Murders. I doubt the movie was actually inspired by any one crime. The ‘inspired by real events’ tag is usually more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. Still — any new attention to this unsolved case is a good thing. You’re about to see why.

*****

Cabin 28 is gone now. It’s probably better that way.

According to Wikipedia, the cabin was razed in 2006. Another source indicates the cabin was destroyed in 2004. Either way, it was torn down to keep away the weirdos, the ghost hunters, and the teens testing each others’ bravery.

Cabin 28 in the Keddie Resort in Plumas County, CA was destroyed to try and make way for some new memories. Anything, perhaps, to finally put the old horrors to rest.

*****

Built in 1910, the idyllic Keddie Resort offered a lodge surrounded by 33 cabins. There were hiking trails winding through the pines and great trout-fishing in the mountain streams. Customers came from miles away to dine in the restaurant at the lodge.

In the late 60s, you could buy a “Feather River Canyon Holiday [and] Keddie All-Expense Week-End (sic)” for $32 per person. The junket included “a buffet dinner and overnight accomodations at Keddie Resort.”

Crime was almost unknown. Sure, in 1955 Richard Moffett and Earl Jones had an auto accident near Keddie, and the wreckage revealed that the men had stolen kitchenware from the Resort restaurant. But their injuries from the accident were probably as good a punishment as any.

Then one night in April, 1981, 15-year-old John Sharp and 17-year-old Dana Wingate hitchhiked to Keddie and Cabin 28 from nearby Quincy. John and his mom Glenna had been living in the cabin for months.

Police believe that the horrors that took place on the night of April 11 began right around the time John and Dana entered the cabin.

No one seems to know for sure if the killers entered with the boys or if they were already there. Either way, the next 10 hours or so were an orgy of violence and bloodshed.

The killers bound Glenna Sharp, John, and Dana with wire and duct tape. Tina Sharp, age 13, entered after the horrors began. She too was restrained.

The killers used knives. They used a hammer. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2001, Plumas County Sheriff’s Patrol Commander Rod DeCrona said that the victims were stabbed “so violently they bent one knife totally double from the force.” DeCrona continued, “They stabbed and pounded on everything in sight — the walls, the people, the furniture. Everything.”

DeCrona said that there was “blood sprayed absolutely everywhere.”

Sheila Sharp had stayed with a friend that night in a nearby cabin. She came home the next morning to discover that her home had been turned into an abbatoir. She was only 14.

But nothing in the Keddie case has ever been straightforward.

For example, Tina Sharp wasn’t among the dead. She was missing.

And Tina’s younger brothers — Ricky and Greg — were unharmed. They’d slept throughout the night in another room in the cabin, along with another boy who was there for a sleepover.

Neighbors in nearby cabins didn’t hear anything that night.

At least 8 investigators were on the case in the weeks just after the massacre. Speaking to a Sacramento paper in 1984, then-Plumas Sheriff Steve Wright stated that his office had put in at least 4,000 man-hours of investigation.

They couldn’t find a motive. For 3 years, they couldn’t find Tina.

Just over 3 years after the murders, someone was hunting for bottles near Feather Falls, some 50 miles from Keddie, when they discovered bones.

A state lab analyzed the bones, and in June of 1984, authorities made the announcement: they’d found what was left of Tina Sharp.

*****

There have been at least two websites devoted to this nightmarish unsolved crime. One was published in conjunction with a 2005 documentary about the murders, Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders. That site has been offline for a while, and is difficult to access via the Wayback Machine. The other site is Cabin28.com.

A look at information published by Cabin28.com gives a rough sketch of some other events in the case.

Some time after April 14, 1981, police questioned two men in connection with the murders, Martin “Marty” Smartt and John “Bo” Boubede. According to the website, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Dept. searched Smartt’s cabin and a nearby “outbuilding.” A jacket, “believed to belong to Tina [Sharp]” was found beneath the house. There may have been blood on the jacket.

[EDIT: A commenter signing off only as “Smartt” posted the following on May 28: “Please edit your blog to indicate that Marty Smartt was questioned by PCSD, the California State Police, and the FBI and was found to have no involvement with these murders and was subsequently released.“]

Apparently, the investigation never went anywhere after that. John Boubede may have been dead since 1982, and Marty Smartt since 2002.

The same website states that Tina Sharp did not receive any kind of memorial or headstone until 2002.

The owner of AsylumEclectica.com took a trip to Cabin 28 in 2001. “Comtesse” made photos and wrote a short narrative. Quote:

So, we drove up Highway 70, through the beautiful Feather River Canyon, up to Keddie Resort. A short drive down Keddie Resort Road and we were in the midst of a large number of cabins, most in disrepair and featuring ‘Condemned’ signs on the front door. We were a bit disappointed – and surprised – to find that cabin #28 is actually located right in the middle of a group of cabins, several of which seemed to be occupied. I was expecting it to be tucked away in some dark, deep secret place where we could snoop in peace, but that was not to be. I also couldn’t help but wonder how such savagery could be inflicted on several people for several hours right in the middle of this inhabited area and nobody outside heard a thing? Pretty strange…

The photos at Asylum Eclectica hold no hint of the aura of menace that must have hung over Cabin 28 in the two-plus decades following the murders there. They simply show a boarded-up, dilapidated structure that looks like nothing more than a shed, really.

Based on some discussions on a message board related to Cabin28.com, it appears as though the conflating of the mystery of Cabin 28 with The Strangers has caused some to believe that the two are one and the same, and that the story of the murders of Glenna Sharp, John Sharp, Dana Wingate, and Tina Sharp are all part of some “viral” fiction. They are not. The Keddie Murders were real, and there are newspaper articles about the murders going back to 1981, if you know where to find them. The massacre in Cabin 28 left a stain on that part of Plumas County that has pained residents ever since. While many in Plumas County would surely love for the Keddie Resort to one day be equated with something other than this bloody crime, I can’t imagine they or any surviving Sharp relatives would be anything but furious to think that some folks now believe this tragedy is nothing but a marketing tool.

But you know, the Keddie Murders may remain a mystery. That’s the sad fact about many long-unsolved crimes; they simply stay unsolved. In my own mental encyclopedia of unsolved mysteries, the Keddie Murders are closely related to the Groene murders in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho — which were, of course, solved — the murders of the Bennetts in Aurora, CO in 1984, and more recently, the murder of the Short family in Virginia in 2002. The last family murder also involved an abducted child who was only found later, miles away.

The sheer enormity of these tragedies connects them. But I sometimes think they are also connected by virtue of being examples of what happens when humans unleash their most monstrous selves. Because Joseph Edward Duncan III had a blog, we know that he was giving himself over to his psychopathic demons in the weeks before he killed the Groenes, Mark McKenzie, and took away Shasta and Dylan Groene to brutalize them for weeks on end. He was giving up and letting his mask of sanity crack and fall away.

Duncan is in prison, trying to keep the needle out of his arm. The world is now safe from him. The thing that scares people about the other crimes, the ones that haven’t been solved, is the idea that the killers who committed them gave free rein to their demons — and then put the mask on again. Such things can spook you in a spiritual way, really. That’s why I find myself automatically linking such crimes, even when there is absolutely no reason to think the same killer did them all. That particular breed of serial murder is actually pretty rare.

Different hands wield the knives and the hammers. But even in my most secular, agnostic moments, I still wonder if the same sort of inhuman, timeless evil is present behind the eyes of the monsters shedding the blood.

Selected sources:

  • Sacramento Bee;
  • San Francisco Chronicle;
  • Oakland Tribune.