Retracing last steps...
Here is another article that I recently found. Toward the end of it, many statements are made from Jenner locals indicating the possible last plans/moments of Jason and Lindsay. I really don't know what to believe because none of these things can be factually proven, but I want to insist and encourage people to keep Jason's and Lindsay's integrity intact. I know in my heart that Jason and Lindsay had pure hearts and pure intentions in every aspect of their lives. They were/are great people and deserve to be respected as such. This article is from August 29, but it also has some information and quotes from Lindsay's family that I had not before heard or read. Please continue to keep the families in your prayers as well as the families and people throughout the world recently devastated by the tsunamis in Asia... yet another tragedy through which God can do His miraculous works in the hearts of people both saved and unsaved. I will pray that this will be an opportunity for Christians to step up and make a difference for God's Kingdom.
Retracing the [doomed] couple's steps...
Slain Christian camp counselors spent some time in S.F. before heading to Jenner.
Sunday, August 29, 2004
By Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle
They were about to complete a summer of rafting, rock climbing and Christian ministry in the Sierra foothills, and so the engaged young couple from the Midwest set out for a tried-and-true Northern California weekend jaunt.
They bought a cheap souvenir at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. They snapped pictures of each other in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. And they headed north for the Sonoma coast, past wineries and goat farms and Russian River hideaway towns, until they reached the ocean.
That's where the rather ordinary story of Jason Allen and Lindsay Cutshall changed, as sharply as the weather must have changed as they drove their last few miles on Highway 1 and pulled into fog-soaked Jenner, a postcard village Allen had passed through five years earlier.
Allen, 26, of Zeeland, Mich., and Cutshall, 22, of Fresno, Ohio, died there, on damp gray sand near the ocean's edge, sometime between Saturday, Aug. 14 and Tuesday, Aug. 17.
They were found that Wednesday, tucked inside their sleeping bags on an isolated, unmarked beach, shot in the head from close range while they apparently dozed to the sound of the wind and the surf.
And nobody knows why.
Nobody can understand how two people drawn together by an intense devotion to scripture, a love for the rugged outdoors and simple needs -- their wedding registry was at Target -- could be executed so coldly, and in a place they probably felt was a patch of paradise far from home.
"It's just absolutely senseless. They were two innocent people, with no enemies, having an enjoyable weekend together before their marriage," said Cutshall's father, Chris Cutshall, who was to officiate at the ceremony in a parishioner's garden.
The longtime pastor of a nondenominational evangelical church in Fresno, Ohio, Chris Cutshall said his family is at peace with the slayings: "I believe that after they saw the sun set and went to sleep that night, they woke up and saw the Lord."
Mystery on the coast
The killings have captivated and frightened coastal residents -- so much so that some have brought up the infamous Zodiac killer. And they have perplexed detectives who appear to be trying to talk to every person who was recently near Jenner, a bend-in-the-road hamlet where residents pull up to a trailer to retrieve their mail from the postmaster.
Those questioned include everyone from a local who lives in a van adorned with photos of sunsets, to a 21-year-old drifter from Wisconsin cited for skateboarding in nearby Fort Bragg, to tourists who dine on racklet of elk and creme brulee at the River's End restaurant -- named for its view of the mouth of the Russian River.
Cops have studied graffiti on driftwood, called bus drivers who pass through Jenner and watched hours of surveillance tape gathered from convenience stores. Helicopter pilots have used infrared cameras to search for nighttime campfires up and down the coast. No lead seems too small.
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department ruled out motives including murder-suicide, sexual assault and robbery. It has considered various other theories: that Cutshall and Allen could have been killed by a hitchhiker they helped; or someone set off by the couple's religious fervor; or someone already camping on the beach where they died.
"We're not giving up on anything,'' Sonoma County Sheriff Bill Cogbill told Jenner-area residents during a community meeting Wednesday night. "We had some good leads that didn't turn out as good as we had hoped, but we're still pursuing other scenarios. Anything is possible."
Dissecting final days
Authorities are also retracing the couple's steps during their final weekend -- in some cases sorting through conflicting statements from potential witnesses -- to determine how, and when, Cutshall and Allen met their killer. That is, if they met their killer at all.
The trail begins when Cutshall and Allen finished their duties at the Rock-N-Water adventure camp in the El Dorado County town of Coloma at 7 p.m. on Aug. 13.
This wasn't just a summer job; Allen had saved $2,000 for the couple's rafting-guide training on the American River. The couple -- who met two years ago while he was a guide on the Gauley River in West Virginia and she a student at nearby Appalachian Bible College -- told their parents they dreamed of someday directing their own camp as a way to spread their love of God.
No, this was far more than a job. Cutshall was known to spend hours counseling the camp's adolescent girls, at times staying up well past midnight despite a 6 a.m. wakeup call.
Allen, whose kindred relationship with the wild was developed during childhood hunting and fishing trips, worried he might never find a woman who shared his love of God and the outdoors -- until he met Cutshall.
City by the bay
They had a gratifying summer, but before leaving California, Cutshall wanted to see San Francisco, her father said.
And so she and her fiance departed in Chris Cutshall's red 1992 Ford Tempo with a kayak rack, telling fellow staffers only that they were off to visit friends. Where the couple spent Friday night is a "puzzle to us," Chris Cutshall said, but he figures they might have found a place to camp. He said detectives haven't located thefriends the couple mentioned.
At 1 p.m. the next day, a Saturday, Cutshall's credit card was used to buy a set of miniature Tabasco sauce bottles at Pier 47 in San Francisco. Cutshall and Allen were seen at the California Gourmet Market in the Cannery building, according to a receptionist at the store, which is famous for its collection of souvenir hot sauces.
The purchase doesn't surprise family members. Jason Allen was a practical joker. While his fiancee and her mother selected housewares for the wedding registry at Target several months ago, Jason screamed by on a child's bicycle, blaring the horn.
Photographs recovered from the couple's camera show them enjoying San Francisco and mugging in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
Later Saturday, police said, Cutshall and Allen stopped for gas along Highway 116 in Guerneville, suggesting they might have also driven winding roads through downtown Sebastopol and Forestville.
At River Gas in Guerneville, clerk Dustin Gooler remembers Allen walking in and buying a few items. Gooler marks the first of several contacts with the couple -- many disputed -- as they approached Jenner.
The front desk manager at the Jenner Inn, who asked that her name not be used, said Cutshall had called several days earlier and booked a room before calling to cancel the same day. She said Cutshall and Allen walked through the front door of the old redwood lodge either Friday or Saturday night.
Told that the inn was booked, they said they would camp. The next morning, the manager remembers chatting with the couple as they ate breakfast in the dining hall of the Jenner Inn.
"I asked them if they were having fun. They said they stopped in San Francisco ... they were just a happy couple trying to get away for the weekend," the manager said. She said the couple told her they planned to move to a new camp site.
More than 10 miles to the south on Bodega Highway, which connects Highway 1 to Freestone and Sebastopol to the east, Nick Marlow says he also saw Cutshall and Allen. The owner of Northern Lights, a Bodega surf shop, said they came in either Saturday or Sunday to ask where they could camp for free in the area -- ideally at a spot they could hike to.
"We were told to go up north of Jenner," Marlow quoted Allen as saying. Marlow said he warned Allen that it was illegal, but that the area north of Jenner was probably a "good idea."
Sighted in Jenner?
Two other alleged sightings are the talk of Jenner: Bert Rangel, the owner of the River's End, said he is certain he saw the couple sometime between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 16, when they walked in and asked whether any cabins were available. Rangel said the couple was turned away because there was no vacancy.
However, Rangel described Allen as having a distinctive goatee. That has thrown Rangel's sighting in doubt. While Allen was known to wear such a goatee in the past, he did not have one when he died, police said.
And Julie King, a part-time employee at the Jenner Inn's Mystic Isle Cafe, said she saw Cutshall and Allen outside the cafe on Tuesday, the day before their bodies were found. The business was closed, and Allen shouted something like, "Open up in there, people are hungry out here," according to King.
The couple's family members are suspicious of many of the sightings, though. Chris Cutshall said the couple's Christian values and frugal ways would have kept them from sharing a cabin and splurging in a restaurant. Bob Allen, Jason Allen's father, said his son made about $8,000 a year and saved $5,000.
Even more significantly, the couple was due back to the Sierra foothills at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 15. It was a deadline that they wouldn't have chosen to miss, according to their parents, particularly because Lindsay Cutshall was planning to fly home just a week later to begin planning her wedding.
Their absence on Sunday caused immediate alarm; by the next afternoon, friends at the camp in Coloma had filed a missing-persons report and the parents were on their way to California.
"When we got the call Monday (from the camp), our hearts sank," Chris Cutshall said. We knew something was wrong."
Though it's not clear when, at some point the couple appears to have parked their car on a Highway 1 turnout less than two miles north of Jenner.
They might have seen a sign reading, "How to Survive this Beach" before they walked a few hundred feet along a lightly traveled path through dry brush and bushes, and finally down a moderately steep hill to the beach.
There, they would have found three crude driftwood shelters that appear to have been constructed recently, with black inscriptions that range from love notes ("Julie + Phil") to friendly messages ("Make yourself at home") to what seem like warnings ("My beach" and "Don't f -- this place up"). One structure is titled, "The Driftwood Sinn."
Chris Cutshall believes one of the recovered photographs may show this very beach -- where on Aug. 18 the couple was found, side-by-side. Their possessions and their car were apparently undisturbed.
And now two families are planning a memorial service rather than a wedding.
"Sin is real to all of us," Chris Cutshall said this week, after returning home from Northern California. "Even though God loves us, this isn't heaven and we aren't immune to suffering. And we do suffer."