For 35 years, Sheila Sharp has tried to repress the memory of finding the brutally murdered bodies of her mother and older brother in her family’s cabin home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains — a crime that remains unsolved.
At least one other person was killed that night: her teenage brother’s friend, whose body also was found by then 14-year-old Sheila on the living room floor of Cabin 28 in Keddie, California, on the morning of April 12, 1981. A fourth victim, Sheila’s younger sister, was missing. Her fate remained unknown until her skeletal remains turned up in the woods three years later, as recounted Monday night in an episode of PEOPLE’s new true-crime series on Investigation Discovery, People Magazine Investigates.
Sitting down with PEOPLE Senior Editor Alicia Dennis for the People Magazine Investigates After Show that followed the broadcast, Sheila talks about the additional burdens she carries because of the grisly discovery and the uncertainty of who was responsible.
• Watch our new 10-part true crime show, People Magazine Investigates, which airs Mondays (9 p.m. ET) on Investigation Discovery
“One of the main things I have a hard time with is getting close to people, for fear that something’s going to happen,” Sheila says in an exclusive clip from the after show. “And I know I always look around. I’m not as — I guess I’m more cautious of my surroundings.”
That night Sheila, now 50, a married mother of three and grandmother of two, lost her mom Sue, 36; brother Johnny, 15; and sister Tina, 12, along with Johnny’s friend Dana Wingate, 17. A renewed investigation has caused the cold case to heat up, according to the People Magazine Investigates episode entitled “Cabin 28: Horror in the Woods.”
Sheila had spent that night at a sleepover next door. Miraculously, her two younger brothers Rick, then 10, and Greg, 5, along with another friend, were found asleep and unharmed in an adjacent bedroom.
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On the after show, Dennis asks Sheila how the crime affected her surviving younger siblings, and about the role Sheila played as their protector in later years.
“We sheltered them,” she says about her brothers in the aftermath of the murders. “I became their mother, and it’s hard for me to step back and be a sister, ’cause that’s what I am — I’m their sister, I’m not their mother, and they need to make their own choices.”
But Sheila credits the memory of her mother’s compassion as a guide she has tried to follow.
“That’s the way my mom raised us,” she says. “She was very caring, and that’s how I’ve always been.”
People Magazine Investigates continues with new episodes that air Mondays (10 p.m. ET) on Investigation Discovery.