SONOMA COUNTY (CBS SF) — The Sonoma County Sheriff on Friday morning announced an arrest in the murders of an engaged couple camping on a secluded beach nearly 13 years ago.
The random, gruesome 2004 murder of the young Midwestern couple visiting the California coast shocked Sonoma County.
“That really rocked the community,” said Sonoma native Kelly Bowers told KPIX 5. “And this idea that [in such] a beautiful, pristine place…that was such a terrible, disturbing thing.”
At a news conference Friday morning, Sheriff Steve Freitas said 38-year-old Shaun Gallon of Forestville is accused of killing 26-year-old Jason Allen and 22-year-old Lindsay Cutshall, whose bodies were found near the town of Jenner on August 18, 2004.
The investigation took a turn in March when Shaun Gallon was arrested on suspicion of killing his brother Shamus Gallon in the family’s home on River Road in Forestville.
Following Gallon’s arrest, detectives talked to him again about the killing of the couple and allege he told them information only the couple’s killer could have known, sheriff’s spokeswoman Misti Harris said.
Gallon had been a suspect in the couple’s killing from the beginning because of tips detectives received.
Detectives allegedly have evidence corroborating Shaun’s statements that led to his arrest.
The sheriff said Gallon was “well-known to investigators” and that he was a person of interest in the Jenner case.
“Based on what detectives have been able to learn, we feel confident that we have Jason and Lindsay’s killer in custody,” Freitas said.
“We have received over 1,200 tips on this case and have worked tirelessly,” the sheriff went on to say. “It’s especially joyful to get to this point.”
The sheriff said they are still unclear about the motive in the case and that they do not know if the suspect had any connection with the victims. Freitas said the gun connected to the case, a rifle, has not been found.
Allen was from Zeeland, Michigan and Cutshall was from Fresno, Ohio. The couple was working as counselors at a Christian camp in El Dorado County that summer when they visited the Northern California coast for three days.
The couple decided to spend the night at Fish Head Beach, between Russian Gulch and the mouth of the Russian River, when they were killed.
Allen and Cutshall were planning to get married the following month.
The couple’s bodies were found by a helicopter crew that had responded to a rescue. The crew didn’t see the two moving and landed the helicopter to find them dead, according to Freitas.
Gallon is in the county jail and is being held on no-bail status in his brother’s slaying. He has not been charged in the couple’s killing.
Detectives plan to ask the district attorney to charge Shaun in the near future, Freitas said.
Sheriff’s officials believe there is no connection between the couple and Shaun.
“We believe it is a random crime and we are confident that there was no connection between them,” Freitas said.
Both the brother and the couple were killed with rifles, though the same weapon was not used in the two crimes. Beyond that detail, investigators are tight lipped until the case goes to court.
“I’m not going to jeopardize the case,” explained Freitas.
Despite many man hours spent on the investigation, no evidence was found in the case and the trail went cold for many years.
In a story that aired on KCBS marking 10 years since the murders, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Detective Carlos Basurto said that the victims’ parents would call every year to check if there had been breaks in the case.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow when, year after year, you have to tell them that we still haven’t found our suspect yet,” Basurto said in 2014.
Anyone with additional information about the case or Gallon is asked to contact the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.