Might a 35-year-old cold case involving the murders of four people finally be close to being solved?
That’s the hope of Sheila Sharp, who discovered the bodies of her mother, brother and a friend at her family’s cabin in Keddie, California, in 1981, in a mystery re-examined this past Monday in an episode of PEOPLE’s true-crime series, People Magazine Investigates, on Investigation Discovery.
The remains of the fourth victim, Sheila’s sister, who vanished from the family’s home that night, were found three years later.
Now, in the People Magazine Investigates After Show, Sheila shares her reaction upon learning that a reopened investigation has yielded new clues.
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Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood, who took office in 2010, enlisted retired investigator Mike Gamberg in 2013 to organize the boxes of files and evidence in the case for a potential fresh look. Both had personal connections to the victims: Hagwood had been a teenage schoolmate of victims Johnny Sharp, 15, and Dana Wingate, 17. Gamberg was an acquaintance of Sheila’s mom, Sue, and also knew Sharp and Wingate.
Gamberg’s review found reports and interviews pointing to two men who were questioned at the time: Marty Smartt, a neighbor of the Sharp family in Keddie, and Smartt’s ex-con friend “Bo” Boubede. The review also turned up surprises Gamberg thinks may help close the case on those men as the culprits — including a potential murder weapon.
Smartt and Boubede were not officially named as suspects at the time and are both now dead, but according to Gamberg, Smartt was angry at Sheila Sharp’s mother, Sue, for siding with Smartt’s wife in a marital dispute. Some argue that a letter that turned up after the murders from Smartt to his then-wife appears to read like a confession to the attacks, which were carried out using knives and two hammers, says Gamberg. Only one hammer was recovered at the scene.
At the time, Smartt told investigators that his own hammer — which he described as a steel claw hammer with a blue handle — was missing. Then, last spring, a man came forward to say that while using a metal detector around a pond in the Keddie area, he had discovered a hammer matching that exact description. It has since been recovered and is currently being tested for DNA and blood residue.
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Also in the case files, Gamberg came across a sealed envelope — apparently never opened — containing an audio recording of an anonymous 911 caller who had identified the skeletal remains found in the woods in 1984 as those of Sheila’s sister, Tina, well before the medical examiner confirmed that fact.
Did the caller know about or participate in the disposal of Tina’s remains? Gamberg says advanced audio technology is now being used to analyze that voice recording as an additional lead, fueling his push to identity possible accomplices or others who might confirm the roles of Smartt and Boubede in the killings.
In the after show, PEOPLE Senior Editor Alicia Dennis asks Sheila Sharp: “The new leads that have come about, and the things that the investigators have uncovered now — did this come as a shock or surprise to you?”
Sheila says that after more than three decades with no answers, she may at last have the one she has suspected for so long.
“I was very shocked, and I just found out this year on some of this new evidence,” she says, “so it was shocking — and [gave me] a little more hope.”
People Magazine Investigates continues with new episodes that air Mondays (10 p.m. ET) on Investigation Discovery.