SANTA ROSA, CA (AP) — California authorities believe they have solved the slayings of two young Bible-camp counselors found shot to death as they slept on a Northern California beach more than a decade ago, they said Friday.
The killings and the mysteries surrounding them long had drawn national attention: 22-year-old Lindsay Cutshall and her 26-year-old fiance, Jason Allen, were found dead next to each other on an isolated and driftwood-strewn beach near the Sonoma County village of Jenner on Aug. 18, 2004.
The two summer Bible-camp workers were still zipped into their sleeping bags on the beach about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of San Francisco, and authorities believe they were shot in the head as they slept.
“Many of us will never forget when Sonoma County was rocked by the discovery of a young innocent couple found murdered on a Sonoma County beach,” Sheriff Steve Freitas said Friday. Deputies said over the years that they had continued to search for leads.
This spring, authorities arrested a Sonoma County man, Shaun Gallon, 38, in the unrelated March 24 fatal shooting of his brother, Freitas told reporters Friday. Freitas said Gallon had come under scrutiny earlier in the beach killings, but authorities gave no details why.
Questioned after his recent arrest about the 2004 killings, Gallon relayed “information about the killings that no other person could have known,” the sheriff said. Authorities have since found further corroborating evidence, he said.
“We feel confident we have Jason and Lindsay’s killer,” Freitas said.
Gallon was arrested and charged with murder on March 25 in the shooting death of his younger brother. Investigators say Gallon shot his 36-year-old brother in the home they shared with their mother. Police say they recovered an assault-style rifle they believe Gallon assembled.
He is being held in the Sonoma County Jail without bail, but he has not yet been charged in the beach killings, Freitas said. The weapon used in the 2004 shooting, identified at the time as a Marlin rifle, has not been found, he said.
Authorities never charged anyone in the 2004 killings, and no motive has ever been made public, though the sheriff said Gallon had initially been a “person of interest” in the case. Authorities have said neither victim was robbed or sexually assaulted.
Cutshall, a native of Fresno, Ohio, and Allen, from Zeeland, Michigan, were on a weekend trip. They worked at a Christian youth camp in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills. They had been due to marry within weeks.
Freitas said authorities believed the killing of the young couple was random, and that there was no previous connection between the two and the suspect.
Authorities previously said they also were still trying to find a motive in this spring’s shooting death of Gallon’s brother, Shamus, saying there was no known conflict between the two before the shooting.
Shaun Gallon also had been convicted in 2009 of assault with a deadly weapon, after he shot a homemade arrow off a balcony that hit a man in the head. Deputies said Gallon apparently had not known the victim in that case.
Several of the photos on Shaun Gallon’s Facebook page show him on a beach, catching abalone and showing off homemade spears, bows and arrows. Some of the writing was about firearms, but many were nonsensical entries about sex and fantasy characters.
In a statement read by the sheriff, the dead couple’s parents thanked law enforcement, whose “humanity and professionalism would not allow them to give up the case.”
The parents’ statement also offered prayers for the suspect “who heartlessly committed this crime” and for the people around the 140-resident coastal town of Jenner, who had described themselves as haunted by the case.