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Detectives Probe Double Murder of Engaged Couple Found Dead on Northern Cali Beach
Christian camp counselors Lindsay Cutshall and Jason Allen enjoyed a sight-seeing excursion in San Francisco for the last leg of their summer ministry. Why someone would fatally shoot them as they camped on a beach would go unsolved for more than a decade.
The double murder of a soon-to-be-wedded couple went unsolved for more than a decade, and a suspect roamed free until killing again.
Lindsay Cutshall, 22, and Jason Allen, 26, were outdoor enthusiasts engaged to marry in September 2004. Before their big day, however, they decided to spend the summer in El Dorado County, California, where both worked as counselors at Rock-N-Water Christian camp in Coloma.
“Jason was super, super friendly; just a very free spirit; did his own thing, had his own style,” friend and Rock-N-Water co-worker Eli Lamouria told Final Moments, airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen. “Lindsay had the most peaceful personality I’ve ever met.”
Cutshall grew up in Fresno, Ohio, homeschooled and raised in the Christian faith by parents Chris and Kathy Cutshall. According to Mr. Cutshall, both were “pleased and proud” that, since childhood, Lindsay held aspirations of one day becoming a missionary.
Cutshall graduated in 2003 and traveled about 200 miles south to attend Appalachian Bible College, where she participated in spiritual outreach, primarily through outdoor activities, such as whitewater rafting. There, she met a former Appalachian Bible student, Jason Allen, of western Michigan, who’d graduated and returned to the school to help lead the students.
Cutshall’s parents were delighted when Cutshall and Allen soon became a couple.
“He came from a great family, and he grew up in a wonderful home,” Mrs. Cutshall told Final Moments.
Five months after courting, Allen visited his girlfriend’s parents in Ohio, asking Mr. Cutshall for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Chris Cutshall gave his blessing, and the pair became engaged.
On June 1, 2004, Cutshall and Allen drove from Ohio to the West Coast, taking their ministry to the California Christian camp. For the next few months, they spent their days leading the youth on hiking trips, rock-climbing adventures, and whitewater rafting. It was custom that Cutshall call her parents from a payphone every Sunday, apprising them of their fun summer adventures.
In August, with the season drawing to a close, the engaged couple decided to spend their last California weekend driving about 130 miles southwest to San Francisco to do some sightseeing before returning home. They left Coloma on Friday, August 13, 2004, and were expected to return to camp that Sunday at around 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. to work the next day.
By Sunday, neither had returned, and Lindsay hadn’t placed her regular phone call home.
Concerns grew by Monday, and on Tuesday, Mr. and Mrs. Cutshall flew from Ohio to California, and the couple was reported missing.
Lindsay Cutshall and Jason Allen Found Dead
On Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004, a park ranger found an abandoned red car at Fish Head Beach in Jenner — about 165 miles southwest of Coloma and nearly 80 miles north of San Francisco. The vehicle had been parked in a pull-off atop a cliff overlooking spectacular ocean views, a quiet and remote spot in Sonoma County.
The park ranger submitted the license plate number to authorities, and it was soon identified as belonging to Lindsay Cutshall. The officer then went down the steep embankment to investigate the sandy beach below, according to Detective Joey Horseman of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
“The state park ranger goes over the beach, and sure enough, he sees what looks to be two people in a sleeping bag down there,” Horseman told Final Moments. “It was immediately clear that they were deceased.”
Both victims sustained a single gunshot wound to the head, and nearby backpacks contained the IDs of the missing couple, Cutshall and Allen. There was no weapon or shell casings found at the scene, leading investigators to rule out the possibility of a murder-suicide.
Nothing appeared missing, and there was no evidence of sexual assault, leaving detectives puzzled about a possible motive.
Nearby, authorities found a disposable camera, and while the developed photos yielded no clues, they showed Cutshall and Allen enjoying their time along the California coast. Both were captured smiling and posing around the city and before the Golden Gate Bridge in what was supposed to be a fun weekend to close out the summer.
“It was really hard to fathom why in the world anybody would kill them,” Kathy Cutshall told Final Moments.
They were just one month away from their wedding day.
A suspect comes onto the radar, but not for long
Sonoma County officials collected receipts from the victims’ belongings, helping them trace their movements since leaving the Coloma camp. They gleaned Cutshall and Allen arrived in San Francisco on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 14, 2004, where they made several small purchases, including a couple of small bottles of Tabasco sauce. They later traveled 60 miles north through Bodega, California, and stopped at a local surf shop to inquire about possible places to rest their heads.
According to Sonoma County Chief Deputy District Attorney Spencer Brady, the couple’s movements became “a little blurry” after they spoke with the surf shop owner, but they eventually landed at Fish Head Beach.
Meanwhile, news of the double murder circulated heavily in the media, and more than 1,000 tips poured into the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. But on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2004, a woman called the station, and pointed investigators to her boyfriend, Shaun Gallon, a local with a criminal history reported as “doing weird things,” according to Det. Horseman.
D.A. Brady told Final Moments that Gallon was well-known to authorities and had a history of heavy substance abuse and a fondness for hunting, self-described as a survivalist of sorts.
Detectives visited Gallon at his Guerneville residence — slightly more than 10 miles northeast of Jenner. They found bulletproof vests, firearms, and a spear at the home. Still, there was nothing to tie Gallon directly to the crime scene, especially since whomever killed Cutshall and Allen was believed to have collected the shell casings from the beach, making ballistics comparisons impossible.
“He had frozen animals in his apartment; he was definitely living on the fringes, [an] alternate lifestyle,” said D.A. Brady. “He was somewhat savvy with weapons, and he was — I would say it’s fair to say — a bit antisocial.”
No arrest was made, and the unsolved case would go on for years without any answers.
A domestic murder provides a break in the case
A $50,000 reward by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office was proffered, which kept tips steadily coming in. But weeks, months, and then years would go by without anything to help investigators catch their suspect. But there was hope in 2009 when murder suspect and fugitive Joseph Burgess was killed in a New Mexico shootout that left two people dead.
Burgess was wanted for the 1972 double murder of a young couple shot to death while camping on a Canadian beach on Vancouver Island, a crime with striking similarities to the 2004 murders. However, DNA left on a beer can found at the Cutshall-Allen crime scene did not match Burgess, and he was soon ruled out as a suspect.
Other theories in the Cutshall-Allen murders included the engaged couple stumbling upon a drug deal and the elusive Zodiac killer, but nothing panned out for several years.
On March 24, 2017 — 13 years after someone killed Lindsay Cutshall and Jason Allen — Sonoma County deputies were called to a domestic shooting at Shaun Gallon’s home, where 36-year-old Shamus Gallon had been shot to death.
Shaun Gallon — who was previously questioned about the deaths of Cutshall and Allen — soon confessed to murdering his brother.
“Shaun was angry at his brother, Shamus, for whatever reason, I don’t think we’ll ever truly know,” Det. Horseman told Final Moments. “He kept a rifle at the time in his vehicle, and he brought it upstairs and pulled the trigger, let out a volley of shots, hitting Shamus.”
After confessing to his brother’s murder, Gallon was questioned about the Jenner double homicide, though he initially denied having any involvement. He agreed to take a lie detector test but failed regarding questions involving Cutshall and Allen.
Authorities obtained a search warrant related to Shamus Gallon’s killing, which included a search of Shaun Gallon’s Facebook account. There, investigators found disturbing posts made by Shaun Gallon, according to D.A. Spencer Brady.
“Shaun Gallon had occult images on social media, posts on Satanism, that kind of thing,” Brady told Final Moments.
Detectives also found a suspicious private message from Gallon’s then-girlfriend: “Maybe I should just go turn you in for that 50 grand reward. Why don’t you go shoot some more people and try to get away with it?” the message stated.
At the time, there was only one crime in the county with a $50,000 reward, and it was for the murders of Cutshall and Allen.
In 2017, Sonoma County detectives traveled to London, England, to question the former girlfriend, wondering if she could tie Gallon to the crimes. But before they could sit with the witness, Gallon made a jailhouse confession and soon admitted to killing Cutshall and Allen.
The Conviction of Shaun Gallon
According to Gallon’s statements, he’d hunted Fish Head Beach in search of wild boar before stumbling upon the sleeping couple. He reportedly shot Allen first, then soon shot Cutshall after she briefly woke from the first gunshot.
“For whatever reason, he didn’t like these two people camping on the beach, or maybe he thought of it as his beach, I don’t know,” said D.A. Brady. “But what he did say was that he had made a decision that he was going to kill them. And he said that he had to force himself to kill them; he had been hearing voices that were torturing him, they were tormenting him.”
Detectives continued questioning Gallon, angling in for a fact proving he wasn’t making the story up. So, Gallon admitted he collected the shell casings from the beach and inserted them into a soda can before hiding the can in the blackberry bushes of his father’s property.
More than a decade after the double homicide, authorities found the shell casings where Gallon said he’d left them, tying him to the crime scene.
“Finally, we knew what happened,” Cutshall’s mother, Kathy Cutshall, told Final Moments. “We were happy. We were sorry that another person had to be killed for this, but it was like, ‘Here it is.’ It all came together.”
Shaun Gallon eventually pleaded guilty to the murders of Lindsay Cutshall, Jason Allen, and Shamus Gallon. He was sentenced to three consecutive terms of life in prison plus an additional 94 years.
“Knowing how happy they were is comforting; very comforting,” said family friend Donna Croy about the engaged couple. “And knowing that they fell asleep that night on the beach and they woke up in Heaven.”
Watch all-new episodes of Final Moments, Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen.