The 13th Floor

Was THE STRANGERS Based on a Real Event?

It’s the reason you lock your door at night. It’s the reason you check and recheck that deadbolt before going to bed. You’ll be lying there alone in your bed listening and analyzing every noise you hear. Did you just hear something downstairs? Is that the creaking sound of footsteps ascending the stairs towards your bedroom? Did you remember to lock the backdoor? Home invasions are a not an all too common occurrence, but for most people they are a major fear, a fear that Bryan Bertino exploited quite well in 2008’s THE STRANGERS, the story of a young couple who become the victims of a random home invasion while vacationing in their remote summer home. But what makes the film more frightening is that there was a rumor that it was based on real events. You may want to check those locks one more time now. Although the film does bare a resemblance to the highly publicized Tate-Labianca murders of 1969, there is a less well-known murder that has also been discussed in regards to the film.

In November of 1980, Glenna “Sue” Sharp was renting a cabin in Keddie, California, an isolated wooded region in the northern part of the state. During the 80s, it was a derelict town where people usually ended up when everything else in their life had gone wrong. It also had a big crime problem for such a small town.

Sue was a thirty-six-year-old mother of five children. Originally from Connecticut, she was traveling cross-country with her children, escaping her abusive husband James Sharp. Along the way, she visited old family friends before settling in Keddie where she rented a three-bedroom cabin, cabin #28. Despite the lack of opportunity in Keddie, Sue’s family enjoyed the isolation and ample room to roam. Eldest son Johnny (15) took a room just off the basement with no access to the rest of the house; he had to enter his room via a back staircase and could only access the rest of the house through the front door. The other boys Rick (10) and Greg (5) shared a bedroom. Sue and her youngest daughter Tina (12) shared the second bedroom. After giving birth at the age of fourteen and then giving the baby up for adoption, Sue’s eldest daughter Sheila joined the family in the Keddie where she shared a bed with her sister Tina.

On April 12, 1981, Sheila was spending the night with the Seabolts family in cabin 27. She woke that morning and went back home to get ready for church. When she opened the door of cabin 28, she found three bodies lying on the floor, next to them a bloody knife. Shelia immediately ran back to the Seabolts’ house and called the police. Miss Seabolt and her eldest son Jamie returned to cabin 28 to wait for the police and to see the scene for themselves. There they looked in the boy’s bedroom window and saw Greg and Rick still alive. With them was a neighborhood friend, Justin Smart. All three boys were spared a grisly fate.

When police arrived, they found the bodies of Sue, Johnny, and Johnny’s friend Dana Wingate, all of them dead in the living room. All three had been stabbed and bludgeoned with a hammer. The back door, where the killers had made their escape, was still open. On top of everything else, Sue’s daughter Tina was missing. Police could tell from the scene that they were looking for more than one killer. Someone had to have kept a lookout while all this was occurring.

After 4,000 man-hours of investigation, the case went cold. Could it have been just a random home evasion and murder with the killer having no connections to the victims? Then in 1984, a piece of human skull was found in Butte County about 63 miles from Keddie. Further searching turned up several more bones, all of which were confirmed to be those of Tina Sharp. What’s strange about the find is that the police were informed about the bones from an anonymous 911 caller. The caller also said the bones belonged to Tina, long before scientific evidence proved they did in fact belong to the girl.

During their investigation, the police looked into Marty Smartt, Justin Smartt’s father, who lived two cabins down from the family. They learned that Marty was at odds with Sue because he believed she was interfering in his marriage. The police also questioned Marty’s friend “Bo” Boubede who was living with Marty after just being released from prison. Although the initial investigation yielded nothing, years later a letter was found from Marty to his wife Marilyn. In it he said, “I’ve paid the price of your love and now that I’ve bought it with four people’s lives, you tell me we are through. Great! What else do you want?” Marilyn didn’t recall receiving the letter and said she only found out about its existence after police told her about it. Unfortunately the only thing that could tie Marty to the letter was Marilyn’s belief that it was her now ex-husband’s handwriting. With no charges filed, Bo and Marty left the area. Bo Boubede died in 1988, and Marty Smartt died in 2006.

To this day the crime remains unsolved, the only likely suspects are dead, and cabin 28 has since been leveled. That doesn’t mean the police aren’t still trying to solve it. Investigators believe that, during the course of their investigation, they hit a wall of silence. People with information were knowingly holding back the truth for one reason or another. Investigators can’t say why, but locals aren’t talking. But there is no statute of limitations on murder, and the police will not stop until the Keddie murders are solved.