In November of 1980, Glenna Sue Sharp (36), known as Sue, moved her family from a tiny, cramped trailer in Quincy, CA, to the comparably large, 3-bedroom cabin 28 in nearby Keddie. A Navy wife who'd been stationed around the country, she and her five kids had been kicked out of their Connecticut home by her abusive husband, James Sharp, in 1979. They moved across the United States, visiting family and old neighbors before settling in Quincy, where they rented the trailer her brother had just vacated. Despite Keddie being a run-down, low-rent railroad town long in decline, the kids had more room in the cabin, and their yard was the forest, stream, and railroad tracks.
Johnny, the oldest at 15, took an unfinished room downstairs, off the small utility area in the partial basement. With no internal stairwell or bathroom, he used the back stairs or front door to access the main cabin, but was otherwise quite happy with his relative independence. The younger boys, Rick (10) and Greg (5), shared a bedroom at the front of the cabin, adjacent to the living room, while Sue and her youngest daughter, Tina (12) shared the rear bedroom opposite the kitchen. In mid-February, the elder daughter, Sheila (14), joined the family after giving birth to a baby in Oregon, which was swiftly put up for adoption. At that time, Sue slept in the twin bed while the girls shared the queen, or sometimes Sue slept on the pull-out couch in the iving room by the TV.
Times were hard in Plumas, as they always have been, and Sue had to make ends meet with the $250 she received from the Navy (which just covered rent), food stamps and other social welfare, and the stipend she received for being enrolled in CETA, a federal education program of the era. Sue has been described as quiet, reserved, a woman who primarily kept to herself. An FBI document dated a month after the murders depicted her much as her neighbors had:
"She was not a fancy dresser and was best described by casual associates and neighbors as a loner. Sharp had one close girlfriend, a neighbor woman with the last name of Meeks. Sharp's only known source of income came from her position as a CETA worker, wherein she was paid to attend school, the Feather River Community College, where she was to learn a business trade. She was described as being a good student who studied hard and obtained good grades but who was also a loner and who did not participate in social gatherings such as coffee breaks. She had no other known source of income other than a $250 a month allotment check from the US Navy via her husband. Prior to her death, Sharp had no local criminal record nor was she known to local authorities."
Sue still managed to date with some frequency and, while her romantic ambitions remain unclear, several of her boyfriends simply seemed at odds with her background and temperament. Plumas is a county of disperate social and economic classes, a place where the American Dream went to die decades ago. Opportunities to better oneself, much less 'climb the ladder', are slim to none. Given the pool of eligibles, Sue was not exactly fending off prosperous beaus who appealed to her sensibilities. Religion and drinking have been cited as reasons she broke off relationships, and while Sue was no teatotaller, she apparently didn't fancy too much of either. One of her suitors proposed marriage on the first date. According to one report of questionable veracity and dubious intent (seemingly filed to divert attention), Sue was in a vitriolic and abusive relationship with a man shortly before her murder, climaxing in a loud argument in her front yard six weeks prior to the murders, filled with rage and coarse language. Yet another boyfriend was killed a month after the murders, while being chased from a bar by PCSO deputies.
It's been claimed many key persons of interest either dated Sue, had their advances rebuffed by her, or were simply infatuated with her. Her most recent known boyfriend, Dareyl, had been introduced to her a week prior to her death, and they spent much of time with each other in the ensuing days, either at his nearby trailer, or at area bars, playing pool and drinking beer. Their last date was two days prior to the crime, after which Dareyl left Keddie to spend his weekend with family in Paradise, CA.
On Sunday morning, April 12, 1981, Sheila Sharp woke up next door at cabin 27, where she'd spent the night with neighbors, the Seabolts. Having decided to attend church with them that morning, at about 7:45 she went to her cabin, 15 feet to the south, to get her Sunday clothes. Upon opering the front door, she saw three bodies on the floor, the furthest away covered with a blanket. She also saw a knife on the floor, between the doorway and the closest body, bent at such an angle she mistook it for an opened pocket knife. She ran, screaming, back to the Seabolts. Sheila and Mrs. Seabolt went to the nearest working phone, across the street at the landlords' cabin 25, and called the Plumas County Sheriff's Office.
As PCSO dispatched a car to the scene, Sheila and Zonita Seabolt returned to 27 and, with the help of Zonita's son, Jamie, knocked on the boys' bedroom window. Jamie pulled three unharmed kids from that window: Greg, Rick, and neighbor Justin Smartt (12), who had spent the night at 28 on a 'sleepover'. Jamie then went to the rear of 28, up the stairs, and inside through the back door, which was open or left ajar by the killers. After looking around and searching for survivors, he rejoined the others outside. Soon, PCSO squads would be onhand...
LAW ENFORCEMENT ARRIVE
The first member of LE to arrive, shortly after 8 am, was PCSO Deputy Hank Klement, who did a quick search of the cabin, confirming the murders. At 8:25, Sgt. Jerry Shaver arrived and Klement, talking with a group of residents in front of 28, told him there appeared to be a triple murder. After Shaver and Klement entered the front door and reviewed the scene together, Shaver placed Klement on point in front of the cabin. Upon asking the dispatcher to inform sheriff Sylvester Doug Thomas and send out investigators, Shaver began interviewing witnesses. At approximately 8:30 am, PCSO's Don Stoy was called by dispatch, and told to report to a triple homicide in Keddie. Also informed was Assistand Sheriff Ken Shanks.
At 8:45, Don Davis, Sue's brother, arrived and met with Shaver in front of 28. Don gave Shaver details on Sue and the family, about her pending divorce and move from Connecticut. Davis also detailed how Sue's estranged husband, Jim, hadn't visited the family since November of 1979, and how Sue refused to give Jim the new address or phone number after moving to Keddie. He supplied the names and ages of Sue's kids, then mentioned Sheila's baby, giving the baby's father's name and address and mentioning he hung around the gaming arcade in East Quincy.
When Shanks and Stoy arrived around 9:30 am, Klement was again inside 28, and came out to greet them. After a briefing from Shaver and Klement, Stoy and Shanks began photographing the crime scene and collecting evidence. Shaver returned to interviewing witnesses in the cabin's picket-fenced yard, while Klement was dispatched to do a cursory house-by-house welfare check of the area. PCSO went on investigating the crime scene for several days and, while all crime scene reports aren't avaialable, it's clear many reports don't match each other or the facts, and that Stoy's report (written to cover both his and Shanks' accounts of events) seems to have been doctored to indicate PCSO immediately understood something evidence shows they didn't realize for hours: Tina Sharp was missing.
By noon, a California Department of Justice (CA-DOJ) helicopter from Sacramento was hovering over Keddie taking photographs, even capturing on film what appears to be the killers, sneaking out of town the back way to avoid notice. Were either P.A. Crim of Harry Bradley, CA-DOJ Special Agents for the Bureau of Organized Crime and Criminal Intelligence (BOCCI), on the chopper? Either way, two unreliable mafia agents were seemingly instantaneously on-scene, distorting the facts and destroying any chance of arresting suspects or solving the case.
In the front room of cabin 28 were three bodies. Closest and parallel to the front door, supine on the floor, was Johnny's corpse, his feet inches from the south wall and head nearest to the doorway. Inches away to his left lay the cheap table steak knife which Sheila had noticed. Two feet away and parallel to Johnny's body lay that of Dana Wingate, a friend who was to sleep over at 28 Saturday night. Laying prone, the head was barely resting on the corner of a cushion which had been removed from the couch. Adjacent to Dana's body was Sue Sharp's, on its right side with the head by the base of the couch and feet near Dana's left arm. Sue's body was covered with a blanket and sheet, later determined to have come from Tina's bed.
Johnny's hands rested on his abdomen, taped tightly at the wrists with several loops of white cloth medical tape. His ankles were wrapped twice and tightly knotted with a white extension cord. The cord stretched neatly parallel to the base of the disturbed TV stand, then turned abruptly 90 degrees, leading to Dana's ankles, where it was loosely looped once and knotted. Around one of Dana's hiking boots was one loop of medical tape, and there was also half a loop of tape on his right boot, but the tape appeared to have been broken. Likewise, the tape around his wrists was broken, with the broken bands of tape connected only to his right wrist. The tape around the stronger Dana was also much wider than the tape binding the younger, smaller Johnny.
Sue's ligatures were, by far, the most complicated. Her wrists and ankles were bound with the narrow med tape relatively loosely. Over the tape on her wrists was a tight loop of electrical cord, knotted several times. Over that was another loop of stronger electrical cord, knotted and connected to a third length of cord which extended to and tightly looped around her ankles. Yet another length of wire superfluously tied her ankles together. The cord between her ankles and wrists was so taut, her legs and knees were drawn together. She was also gagged with a bandana and her painties, with several lengths of med tape applied on top of them.
...TO BE CONTINUED...