I don't presume to count myself as being one most personally affected by this tragedy... I don't feel like I can even begin to count myself as a part of that group because obviously this is much more heart-wrenching and painful to the parents and the siblings of Jason and Lindsay. I can't speak for their immediate families. They alone can speak for themselves... and they do... with unbelievable conviction and faith in our Heavenly Father. I am moved just as much by their faith in the aftermath as by the faith that Jason and Lindsay lived by.
In my Bible study last night... we wrapped up a 10-week series on a study of the Patriarchs. Beth Moore, a Christian writer and speaker for women's ministries, wrote this study and I found that much of what we learned in it can relate to this tragedy. God doesn't cause tragedies... Satan does. God will never allow a tragedy to occur unless He, in His ultimate sovereignty, knows that much good can come from it... to change the hearts and eternities of countless people and to bring glory to His Name. And He is a God Who keeps His promises... He always does!!! In my own personal life experiences and challenges, God has ALWAYS come through for me with flying colors. He loves us all SO much... so much so that he gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, up to be murdered/killed for unjust reasons. Jesus was not guilty of any wrongdoing... but He was tortured and killed by sinners... and He WILLINGLY did so with US in mind. That huge sacrifice is literally our saving grace. That is the only way by which we can be saved for eternity! That boggles my mind. What an awesome God we serve! He can bring so much ultimate GOOD through tragedy... and although we all suffer in one way or another... that suffering is meant to lessen our grip on this earthly life and keep us looking forward to our home in heaven! Our heartstrings are attached to heaven... and we ache and long for heaven because we know we belong there. We are like strangers on this earth... we don't always feel like we "belong" here because we don't! Our true home is in heaven! While we are here on earth, we are called to be different as children of the Living God. We are the vessels through which Jesus shines His light in this dark world. Jason and Lindsay were awesome vessels for Christ in their lives and they continue to be even in their deaths. Glory to God in the highest!
Jenner Killings: Unsolved, But Not Forgotten...
Sunday, August 14, 2005
BY: Derek J. Moore | The Press Democrat
Jason Allen and Lindsay Cutshall didn't just sign their names or leave a perfunctory we-were-here message in a spiral notebook left for visitors on a remote Jenner beach.
"The sun is going down in the horizon," Cutshall, 22, wrote. "All I see is the beams shining on the cliff face. And I know that God is awesome."
"As I stir this Mac and Cheese," Allen, 26, penned afterward, "I think to myself what a wonderful life. I've just spent two awesome days with my fiance Lindsay. Can life ever be so perfect."
The unabashed love expressed in those words, written one year ago today, stands in painful contrast to the violence that occurred later, perhaps that same night, after the pair bundled themselves in separate sleeping bags and went to sleep.
Someone shot Allen and Cutshall once each in the head at close range with a rifle, killing them both and ending their dreams of getting married soon after returning home to Ohio.
The case remains unsolved. But new information released by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department, including the notebook entries, and interviews with people who say they saw the couple the weekend they died, open the door a little wider onto an investigation that appears to have stalled and grows colder with each passing day.
"The tips are dying down," said sheriff's Detective Dave Thompson, the lead investigator on the case.
One of the enduring mysteries of the case is how the couple discovered Fish Head Beach, which is about a quarter-mile north of Jenner at the bottom of a steep, unmarked trail.
The answer may lie with a Sebastopol surf-shop owner whose identity until recently was a closely guarded secret.
Bruce "Pops" Landry said he steered Cutshall and Allen to the beach after the couple stopped in his store the afternoon of Aug. 14, 2004, and inquired about a place to camp.
"I said there's only one place I know of where you won't get busted by the cops, and that's Fish Head Beach north of the River's End (restaurant). But I said it might be foggy there," Landry recalled while sitting outside California Surf Shop.
The 56-year-old shop owner said he felt a connection with the young couple after learning they were engaged, and that they had spent the summer counseling kids at a Christian white-water rafting camp in El Dorado County.
The couple had left the camp a day before in Allen's beat-up Ford Tempo for what was supposed to be their final weekend in California before heading home and getting married three weeks later.
Landry said he dedicated his own life to God and to helping kids after recovering from a serious accident in 2001.
"I was intrigued by them," he said.
Landry said Cutshall was "mesmerized" by the necklace that he wore, which had a brilliant blue stone called "The Blue Room," a surfing term that refers to being inside the tube of a crashing wave.
Landry said he gave Cutshall a necklace just like it, clasping it around her neck with the admonition, "I hope you guys have as many beautiful years as my wife and I have had over 30 years."
Landry said detectives told him that they didn't find any such necklace after the bodies were discovered on the beach, raising the possibility that the killer took it. Sheriff's investigators have said all along that nothing was taken from the couple.
Among other things, detectives found two cameras, wedding literature, Jason's wallet and Lindsay's jewelry -- an engagement ring and a diamond necklace -- at the campsite.
But Thompson said Landry passed a polygraph test when he was interviewed by detectives at the Sheriff's Department about a month ago. Authorities declined further comment on the statements Landry made during their five-hour interview.
Landry said detectives were suspicious of the interest he had taken in the couple and his role in directing them to the beach. He said they told him that he was a "prime suspect" in the case.
"They asked me out and out, did I kill them. I said, 'No, I didn't.'"
Landry, who has a habit of hugging everyone he meets and has a license plate on his truck that reads, "Rafiki," the Swahili word for "friend," said he feels horrible for directing the couple to the beach.
He said detectives asked him if they would find any of his DNA at the crime scene. He said he told them that he hugged and kissed Allen and Cutshall on the cheek at his shop, then touched Allen's car before they drove away.
Landry said he agreed to the interview with detectives over the objection of family and friends because he wants the killer caught. But he said it pained him to be labeled a suspect in the case.
"It hurt me because I was being so loving," he said. "But they (detectives) are doing their job. ... I know they're doing their best to find the person."
Landry said he contacted investigators the week that the couple's bodies were found to report that Cutshall and Allen had been in his shop.
Why authorities waited 11 months to formally interview him is unknown, although investigators have worked methodically to follow tips -- 865 so far -- and clear people from the list of potential suspects.
Landry is one of five people who have been given polygraphs to date, Thompson said.
The others include Nicholas Scarseth, a Wisconsin drifter who was on the North Coast at the time of the slayings; a Napa man who owned a black sedan similar to one authorities were seeking; and a Healdsburg man who worked with the couple at the white-water camp.
Thompson said detectives "ran (the Healdsburg man) down pretty hard right off the bat" after he "expressed an interest" in the couple. He said the man had an alibi and passed a polygraph.
Thompson said detectives still don't know why the couple were killed. But he is convinced that whoever did it went down to the beach with the specific intent of doing them harm, as opposed to a random attack.
"Someone went down there with a rifle with the intention of killing Jason and Lindsay," he said.
Detectives and the couple's families have wondered whether someone took offense at their religious beliefs. The notebook entries make it clear that they weren't shy about stating their faith in public.
"Our kids wouldn't jam the gospel down someone's throat," said Chris Cutshall, Lindsay's father and an Ohio pastor. "At the same time, they weren't ashamed of their faith."
Variety of interviews
In their search for suspects or leads, detectives have interviewed, among others, methamphetamine users, surfers and drifters. They've also checked out a lot of unexplained suicides, Thompson said.
People reported seeing a strange man on the North Coast around the time of the slayings, driving a pickup with a trailer that had the words, "God loves me," spray painted on it. He told people he didn't have long to live. Landry said some of his customers reported that the man had guns in his truck.
Landry said detectives told him the man had been interviewed.
Landry said detectives also were especially interested in whether he knew of any surfers who frequent Fish Head Beach. He told them the area is better known as a place to watch sunsets.
"I never even knew where this was until it happened," said Nick Marlow, 30, who owns Northern Lights Surf Shop in Bodega Bay.
Marlow's shop was a focus of media attention in the days after the discovery of the bodies because he said the couple had stopped in his store.
What wasn't publicly known until now was that the couple stopped there after visiting Landry's shop. Just as they did there, the couple asked Marlow for a recommendation. He said he was too busy to spend much time with them.
A year later, Marlow said he's still shaken by the killings, to the extent that he recently purchased his first firearm.
"I think I would feel safe camping out on this coast," he said. "I have a dog. But my girlfriend and I are not about to camp out there (at Fish Head Beach). We'd camp up north, maybe, but I probably would have a little protection on me."
As for his friend, Landry, coming under suspicion, Marlow said, "I couldn't see a detective really thinking that they're bringing in the guy when they're bringing in Bruce. No way could I imagine that."
Gaps in itinerary
Where the couple may have gone besides the two surf shops remains unclear. Investigators say they don't know where they stayed Friday after leaving the white-water camp, but they suspect the couple camped out on their way to the Bay Area.
Based on witness statements, receipts and photographs taken by the couple, investigators are sure they stopped at Pier 39 in San Francisco the following morning, before heading out across the Golden Gate Bridge toward Sonoma County.
Where they went after arriving in Jenner is disputed. Landry said detectives told him the couple followed his advice to stop at the Jenner Inn and inquire about a room, which is supported by a manager who said she saw the couple come in.
Publicly, however, detectives have said they don't believe the couple tried to rent a room. Investigators also have debunked other reported sightings, including at the River's End on Sunday.
"We don't think they ever woke up Sunday morning," Thompson said.
Investigators also have checked possible links with other double homicides. Of these, the July 1 shooting deaths of two Oregon campers seemed to offer the most tantalizing connection.
The bodies of Steven Haugen, 54, and Jeanette Bauman, 56, were found at an undesignated camping area three miles up a paved Forest Service road about 70 miles southeast of Eugene. Haugen's dog, Caesar, also was killed, but investigators haven't specified how he died.
Investigators said a license plate was taken from the couple's vehicle. They've released few other details of the case, however, saying scant evidence was found at the scene.
Thompson said he and another detective drove to Oregon shortly after the slayings and met with Lane County sheriff's detectives to compare notes. He said the cases are similar in some ways and not in others.
The Oregon killer used two weapons, for instance. Neither was a .45 caliber Marlin rifle, Thompson said, which authorities say was used to kill Cutshall and Allen.
"I went up to Oregon thinking this could be something and came back thinking probably not," he said.
Such is the wave of emotion detectives have ridden since the very first days of the baffling case.
"There have been a lot of ups and downs, when you get a tip and head up that roller coaster, and then you come crashing down," Thompson said. "I'm not too old or salty not to take those rides."
"As bizarre as this case is," he added, "I think we're one phone call away from this being solved."