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Paradise Lost: The Keddie Killings, Part II

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An May 1981 article from the Sacramento Bee shows a composite sketch of two suspects in the Keddie Killings.

An May 1981 article from the Sacramento Bee shows a composite sketch of two suspects in the Keddie Killings.

Tony Lopez Tony Lopez
Tony comes to Sacramento from the CBS station in Denver, Colorado,...
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“It was such an unspeakable and despicable act of violence against a family… the likes of something like that had never really visited any of us before,” Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood in a recent interview.

The Keddie murders didn’t just visit this Plumas county town, they still linger three decades later; they’re the darkest of clouds in an otherwise picture perfect setting.

“And it’s a dark cloud that has hung over seven sheriffs,” says Hagwood; he is number seven.

“It’s really frustrating.”

His frustration is Sheila Sharp’s endless pain, the unsolved killings of her mother, brother, and friend; all were beaten and stabbed inside their family’s cabin.

Her little sister was kidnapped that morning, and then murdered.

The nightmare of April 12th, 1981 haunts Sheila every day.

Fourteen years old at the time, she found the bodies inside the cabin.

In 30 years she hasn’t found justice.

“I’m hoping that there will be somebody out there that will say ‘oh, yeah, I remember,’ ” Sheila told reporter Tony Lopez recently.

The sheriff’s convinced someone does remember; “I have no doubt that there are people alive today that know more than what they’ve said.”

One such person is a family member of the prime suspect, a man who lived in Keddie at the time of the killings.

And as you can see in a documentary named Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders, and given to CBS 13 by its producer Josh Hancock, there is a man who allegedly confessed to his therapist that he committed the brutal crimes:

The unnamed psychotherapist says in shadow “He said, ‘I killed the woman and her daughter but I didn’t have anything to do with the other two.’”

Sheriff Hagwood confirms there was a confession but says the therapist later changed his story. But Sheila’s story has never changed; her burning question has never been extinguished: “Why? What made you do it?”

The documentary does offer an answer.

The therapist continues to say, “I asked him why he would do that? Martin stated that it was because of our conversation a week prior that he was convinced the woman was responsible for turning his wife against him… asked him why would you hurt the child and he stated she saw the whole thing and I couldn’t have a witness.”

Again, the confession fell apart.

Critics argued law enforcement didn’t follow up, missed opportunities allowing the suspect to slip out of town.

Today the quest for answers continues.

A legal box full of witness testimony, finger prints, gruesome photos, and more is just a very small piece of the puzzle, evidence kept.

But as long as secrets, too, are kept, solving the only unsolved murder case in Plumas County will be an uphill climb.

“You have to approach it with the idea that you’re going to get there, you’re going to solve it,” Sheriff Hagwood says with steely determination and resolve.

In fact, new clues have emerged in recent months.

Investigators believe the suspect and an accomplice are now deceased.

Dead men tell no tales but new technology could save DNA thought to be lost, giving the victims a voice, and give Sheila Sharp something ripped apart 30 years ago: peace of mind.

“I hear all kinds of cases even older than mine that have been solved, you know, it can be done,” she says hopefully.

“Can” and “will” says the sheriff, determined to close the book on a three decades-old horror story.

“For the sake of the victims, for the sake of the family members and the surviving family members, it needs to be solved.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Keddie killings and the efforts to solve the case, or if you think you may know something, contact the Plumas County Sheriff’s Department, or click here.

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