The Keddie Murders: Potential evidence continues to surface

Published: Jun. 7, 2016 at 6:40 PM PDT
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Veteran investigator Mike Gamberg has just one case. It's decades old, but it's one neither he nor his home town can forget. And it's getting warmer.

April 12, 1981, the bodies of 36-year-old Sue Sharp, her 15-year-old son John, and his 17-year-old friend Dana Wingate were found in a cabin at the Keddie Resort, a few miles north of Quincy. They had been bound, beaten and stabbed.

Sharp's 12-year-old daughter Tina was missing. Her remains would not be found for three years, 80 miles away in Butte County.

Two men, Martin Smartt and John Boubede, who both had criminal records and lived next door to the Sharps, were considered suspects, but no arrests were ever made. The investigation quickly stalled. The case remained dormant for decades.

Greg Hagwood was a freshman at Quincy High School at the time of the murders. Fast forward three decades; he's now sheriff and in a position to reopen the case. He brought Gamberg out of retirement to work it. It's paying off.

Starting literally from scratch, he's painstakingly rebuilt the case, finding new evidence and evidence which had strangely enough been lost or ignored years ago. It includes a letter from Smartt to his estranged wife reads in part almost like a confession.

"I've paid a price for your love," he says, "and now that I've bought it with four lives you tell me we're through. Great!"

Buried in a storage unit, Gamberg also found an audio recording of a phoned tip directing officers to Tina Sharp's body. It was still in its evidence envelope. Apparently no investigator had ever bothered to listen to it.

A hammer, resembling one Martin Smartt said he lost, was found, apparently tossed in a pond near the cabins. A thorough search of the pond yielded no further finds, but following our story in April, a man came forward with a knife found in an ash pile near the murder scene.

The knife, hammer and audio tape have been sent to an FBI forensic lab for analysis.

Other calls continue to come in to a special tip line. Each week, it seems, brings new potential leads.

Smartt and Boubede have died, but Gamberg and Sheriff Hagwood say there persons of interest still living who knew about or participated in this crime and should now be worried.

Anyone with information is asked to call that special tip line (530) 283-6360 or Secret Witness at (775) 322-4900. Secret Witness has posted a $5,000 reward for information leading to arrest and prosecution.