Murder at Cabin 28

Who wouldn’t like a cozy log cabin in the woods?

You may want to reconsider your answer in a moment.

The following is a true account of a quadruple homicide.

CABIN 28 –


Glenna “Sue” Sharp, age 36, and her five children got thrown out of their Connecticut home by Sue’s abusive husband, James Sharp. They traveled cross-country visiting friends and old neighbors and settled in Keddie, California, in a 3-bedroom cabin in November, 1980.

Plumas County was not a place where dreams came true. Not a place where perseverance won out. And not a place where one could climb the corporate ladder to success.

Not then anyway. Not in 1980.

Keddie was a run-down, low rent, railroad town. Violence ran rampant.

November, 1980

Despite the circumstances that brought them to CA, the kids nested into their new life, and frolicked in a forest, stream, and on railroad tracks behind the property.

They lived among a cluster of cabins. A dying resort that rented to year-round residents.

Johnny, the eldest child at age 15, took an unfinished room downstairs, off a small utility area in the partial basement. With no indoor stairs or separate bathroom, he used the back staircase or front door to gain access to Cabin 28. Other than this small inconvenience he was content with his new semi-independence. The younger boys, Rick, age 10, and Greg, age 5, shared a bedroom at the front of the cabin, next to the living room, while Sue and her youngest daughter, Tina, age 12, shared the rear bedroom opposite the kitchen.

In mid-February, the eldest daughter, Sheila, age 14, gave birth to a baby in Oregon. The baby was promptly put up for adoption and Sheila rejoined her family in Cabin 28. Now with her child back home, Sue slept in a twin bed while the girls shared the queen. On occasion Sue slept on the pull-couch in the living room, falling asleep in front of the TV.

Times were tough.

Living quarters cramped.

A hard life.

Sadly, that was nothing new. Sue stretched $250 she received from the Navy — which barely covered rent — food stamps, and a stipend she received for being enrolled in CETA — a federal education program of the era — as far it could stretch.

Folks described Sue as a quiet, reserved woman, who primarily kept to herself. No local criminal record and not known to local authorities. She had one close girlfriend, a neighbor woman with the last name of Meeks.

Despite her personality, Sue managed to wrangle dates with some frequency, hanging at a neighborhood bar called The Back Door drinking beer and playing pool. Several boyfriends seemed at odds with her temperament and background. Sue had a steady boyfriend — another volatile relationship — that ended in a shouting match around late March, 1981.

April 12, 1981

Sunday, 7:45 a.m. (approx. time)

Fifteen feet south of her home, Sheila Sharp (14) woke at Cabin 27, the Seabolts residence, where she had spent the night. The Seabolts invited her to attend church with their family. All she needed was her Sunday clothes.

Sheila swung open the front door of Cabin 28.

Three dead bodies on the floor. The furthest away covered with a blanket.

Between the doorway and the closest body was a knife, bent at such an angle that Sheila mistook it for an open pocket knife.

It wasn’t a pocket knife.

It was the knife used to slaughter her family.

Screaming, crying, Sheila careened to the Seabolts.

The matriarch, Zonita Seabolt, rushed Sheila across the street to Cabin 25, the landlord’s residence.

Zonita called the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office.

PCSO dispatched a car.

How could they stand idly by and do nothing?

They couldn’t. No one could.

With the help of Zonita’s eldest son Jamie, they returned to Cabin 28. Around back, Jamie knocked on the boys’ bedroom window.

A face appeared in the glass.

Someone survived. Three children survived.

Jamie dragged Greg, Rick, and a neighbor child, Justin Smartt, age 12, from that window. All three unharmed.

Justin was on a sleepover. He believed he was safe. No one could have predicted what would happen during the early morning hours.

Determined to find more survivors, Jamie crept up the back stairs.

The killers had escaped. The back door left ajar.

Jamie witnessed the carnage, the aftermath of murder.

Three dead: Sue (36), John (15), and John’s friend, Dana Wingate (17).


Claw hammered.


Missing from the cabin was Sue’s twelve-year-old daughter, Tina.

Who committed the murders?

Two primary suspects: Martin Smartt and John “Bo” Boubede.

Smartt served two tours in Vietnam and was seeking psychiatric help at the Reno VA hospital a few weeks before the murders.

Boubede, who had a criminal history of bank robbery for which he spent time in prison, claimed he was at the hospital for epilepsy and a suicide attempt.

The two men met there, and when Smartt left the hospital he brought Boubede with him to Keddie, California.

The police interviewed Smartt and Boubede, but neither were ever charged with the murders.

Both have since died.


Fifty miles from Cabin 28, Tina’s skull was found near a waterfall.

This case has never been solved.

Why am I telling you this heartbreaking story?

Because I spent most of my day yesterday reading transcripts of Smartt and Boubede’s interviews.

Guess what? I have a special treat for you.

Former Supervisory Deputy United States Marshall Mark McClish analyzed these interviews, pointing out key words and phrases that show when a suspect is lying. Mr. McClish has an extensive background as a Secret Service Agent, FBI, and U.S. Marshall.

Now retired, Mark McClish started Advanced Interviewing Concepts, a company that provides interviewing skills training and assists investigators in analyzing statements. Mark currently gives presentations and seminars on Statement Analysis throughout the U.S. He has spoken at numerous conferences and has trained a variety of law enforcement agencies and military organizations. He is the author of the books I Know You Are Lying and Don’t Be Deceived. He also developed the Statement Analyzer which is software that will analyze a statement for deception.

Are you ready?

Mr. McClish gave me permission to publish his analysis of Smartt and Boubede’s statement. Yay! This is pure gold for a crime writer. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to share this with you.

But…you will have to wait till next time. I promise, it’ll be worth the wait.


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  3. I’m just catching up on your blog and discovered this series. ARGHH! Now I’m going to be reading all morning to find out what happens next. Fantastic post, Sue. Fascinating series. I can’t wait to read more!!

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  5. Pingback: Murder at Cabin 28 – The Suspects, Part I | Crime Fiction Writer Sue Coletta

  6. Omg, I can’t believe you ended things there. I’m on vacation this week so kind of hit or miss online but I got completely sucked into this horribly tragic story and was focused on the culprit/solution. So sad that stuff like this happens. I will be looking forward to your follow up post.

    • Hahaha! I know, I’m terrible, but it was too good to pass up. Now that I left everyone hanging I have to remember to post the follow-up piece. 🙂 I’m kidding! Have an awesome time on your vacation, Mae. Bring back lots of pictures.

  7. You’re such a tease! 😀

    But what a tragic tale…

  8. This happened just on the other side of the mountains from me. I’ve spent many vacation hours in that area. It might be hard to believe (in light of this crime) but it’s quite lovely there. I can’t wait to hear the outcome of your expert.

    • Actually, Robin, I do believe it. When researching the crime I saw before and after photos of the resort, cabin, and area. It is a beautiful place, as is much of California. Living so close, have you heard this story?

  9. Great writing here, Sue. You had me hooked right from the opening two sentences. I’m really looking forward to Mr. McClish’s opinion. There is very much a science behind statement analysis. Actually today, a great deal of a polygraphist’s time is spent in analyzing suspect / witness statements as opposed to doing physical tests.

    My experience in these overkill murders (multiple victims and multiple mechanisms – stab, strangle, bludgeon) is that there’s a tremendous emotional release on the part of the bad guy(s). It’s called ‘venting the tank’ where the violence doesn’t stop until the emotions are drained.

    Good stuff and good rhythm in your storytelling 🙂 Looking forward to Part 2!

    • Thank you, Garry. *blush* “Venting the tank” — love it! I may use that in the novel I’m ripping apart now. Let me ask you, does it have to be a frenzied attack? My killer is more precise, but the crime is grisly.

      • Most anger-motive murders are frenzied, like a complete rage, and rarely are they stranger to stranger. The severity of violence depends a lot on the mechanism. Stabbings are very physical and there are almost always multiple wounds. I had one case where there were so many overlapping punctures that we could only estimate the number – over fifty, so that took a hell of a lot of physical effort. Gunshots are usually a few, rarely more than one magazine capacity. What method is your killer using?

  10. Wow! What a story. It is really sad.

    • So sad. But it’s so nice to see you. I miss your posts. Matter of fact, I’m hopping over now.

      • I missed you. I just happened to get out of bed – couldn’t sleep. (2:30am) and then your post fell in my inbox. It was a nice surprise. Your story sounds so awesome. I have been going over some crime stories I attended scenes and covered stories years ago) – and you inspired my writing thoughts…so I may work on a book later – just on the png crime stories. There is a blog here that publishes true cases – ‘Defrosting cold cases’ – have you read it? Will find the link and send it to you. Work day today – have to try to sleep again – lol. Talk soon.x

  11. What a powerful and tragic story, Sue! Absolutely heartbreaking. And it is one of those cases that’s just aching to be solved. I hope it is, for the sake of those who knew and cared about the victims. I’m looking forward to reading McClish’s analysis of the case.

    • I got so wrapped up in this case I spent hours pouring over witness accounts, statements, and interviews. Over the course of the next few posts I’ll publish different clues and maybe we’ll bust the case wide open. If a bunch of crime writers can’t do it then at least we’ll gain knowledge from processing this type of evidence.

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