Remembering their lives...
I found an awesome article today about Jason and Lindsay's story... it amazes me that it has been a year already. So much has changed though... nothing will ever be the same. Not a day goes by that I don't think about what happened to Jason and Lindsay... they are a constant reminder to me of what I need to strive for in living out my faith.
Read the latest article featured in the Sacramento Bee:
A trail of love...
A year ago, two Christian camp counselors were found slain on a lonely beach. Today, all that's certain is their devotion to each other and their faith.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
By Jennifer Garza -- Bee Staff Writer
A year ago Sunday, they saw their last sunset. Jason Allen and Lindsay Cutshall were camping on a Sonoma County beach when they stopped to take in the view. That's when they pulled out her camera to photograph the moment that captured everything good about their lives. Lindsay stood on a beach with her fiancé and contemplated nature, God, goodness and love. She described how she felt in her journal - in the last entry she would make.
"The sun is going down in the horizon and all I see is the beams shining on the cliff face and I know that God is awesome. I look around and I see His creation all around me."
Lindsay and Jason had spent the summer working as counselors at a Christian adventure camp in Coloma, about 35 miles east of Sacramento. There they led rafting trips down the American River by day and Bible discussions at night. The two were exhausted but happy; the experience had brought them closer to each other and deeper in their faith. They were to be married in four weeks.
On this day, they had come to this beach in the town of Jenner to be alone, and it was perfect.
It's easy to picture the couple as they pulled into the parking lot in their red Ford Tempo that afternoon. To see them climb down to the beach, hauling their backpacks and their sleeping bags and their sack of groceries. To hear the sounds of the waves as they set up camp for the night and their laughter as they talked about the future, their future.
Jason was a few feet away from his fiancée. He was making dinner - macaroni and cheese, probably adding a little Tabasco sauce, their only purchase at a nearby market earlier that afternoon. Jason also wrote in his journal.
"As I stir this Mac & Cheese I think to myself what a wonderful life. I've just spent two awesome days with my fiancée, Lindsay. Can life ever be so perfect? Only with a person who is so great. God gives me this privilege in life and He has given me a wonderful woman to enjoy it with. How precious is that!"
Later that night, after enjoying the sunset and their simple meal, they fell asleep side by side in separate sleeping bags under the stars. They never woke up.
They were shot in the head while they slept.
Their bodies were found four days later. Beachgoers told detectives that they remembered seeing the couple but thought they were sleeping. The two were not sexually assaulted and were not robbed. Jason had cash in his wallet, and Lindsay, who had worked previous summers at a jewelry store back home in Ohio, was still wearing a diamond necklace and her engagement ring.
They were discovered by a helicopter crew rescuing a stranded hiker nearby. The pilot saw the couple there side by side on the beach, zipped up in their sleeping bags, and noticed they didn't move when he flew overhead.
Among their personal belongings, detectives found their Bibles, their journals, wedding literature and the camera. Lindsay's picture of the sunset was the last photo taken.
And that's the last thing detectives know for sure about that night.
What happened to those two young campers on the beach? Were they stalked and killed? Or were they simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or, as Lindsay's mother believes, were they killed for their religious beliefs?
One year later, theories abound, but the case remains unsolved. The cold-blooded killings of the two young religious workers have shaken their families, local residents and fellow campers. The deaths haunt the community.
"A lot of locals don't use that beach since the murders," says Lt. David Edmonds of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department, who is heading up the investigation. Edmonds says finding the killer is a priority for the department. They have spent thousands of hours tracking leads and recently assigned more detectives to the case.
"We have leads, but at this point we really need someone to come forward with some information. Someone out there knows something," he says.
Edmonds is reluctant to discuss details of the case but says the two were killed by either a Marlin .45-caliber semiautomatic or lever-action rifle.
"It would have been over fast," he says. The blasts would have been loud, but the sound was probably drowned out by the ocean. It is also a remote beach; the closest resident is about a quarter-mile away.
Detectives do not know for sure how the couple found Fish Head Beach. It is not a legal camping site but is well-known by locals. The two had asked several people in the area for a safe place to camp, and presumably someone told them about the isolated stretch on the coast.
Detectives have heard all the theories about what may have happened to the couple that night. Some believe they may have witnessed a crime, or the killer may have thought the two had seen something illegal. Others believe they were followed.
Kathy Cutshall, Lindsay's mother, thinks the couple may have been killed for their religious beliefs.
"That's my mother's gut talking," she says. "Maybe they ran into someone who didn't like Christians."
Edmonds has heard the theories but has no answers. "From what I can understand, they were very open," says Edmonds, referring to Jason and Lindsay. "Everything I've learned about them is that they were two nice, faith-affirming young adults."
Foundation of faith
To understand what brought Jason and Lindsay to the beach that day, one first has to understand the value they placed on their religious beliefs.
They were devout Christians who wanted to start a camping ministry. They slept on the beach in separate sleeping bags - instead of sharing a motel room - because "sharing a motel room would have been immoral," says Chris Cutshall, Lindsay's father. "They loved being outside."
Their religion and their love for the outdoors had been important to both of them nearly all their lives.
Jason, 26, from Zeeland, Mich., was the oldest of three children who were raised doing two things - going to church and heading for the outdoors. Jason was a sensitive child. His mother says when he was about 5 years old, she found him crying. "How can I be sure I'll go to heaven?" he asked her. She told him there was one way, and soon Jason accepted Christ.
Later, he attended Appalachian Bible College in West Virginia, where he combined his two loves and majored in the Bible and camping ministry. Tall and thin, he was strong from years of rafting and climbing. He wore his long, wavy hair in a ponytail. He was an outdoorsman with a heart for Jesus, says his father, Bob Allen.
After college, Jason worked as a guide and a counselor at several camps throughout the country. He didn't make a lot of money, but he didn't need it, either - the joke in his family was that he made $5,000 the previous year but saved $4,000. Jason lived most of the year in a tent. "He said it made him feel closer to God," says his mother.
Jason once told his parents that he didn't think he'd ever marry because he didn't think he'd find someone willing to accept his lifestyle.
Then he met Lindsay. She was a foot shorter than Jason but more than his match. Soft-spoken and petite, she was the younger of two daughters of a pastor and his wife from Fresno, Ohio. Lindsay, 22, accepted Jesus when she was a child and was active in her church. She also loved the outdoors and spent summers camping with her family.
The two hit it off immediately. Six weeks later, Jason asked Lindsay's father for her hand in marriage. It was not easy. Jason, who had a habit of talking loudly when he was stressed, blurted out, "I am so nervous!" and went to the kitchen for a glass of water.
Taken by surprise, the pastor didn't say no but didn't say yes either. It was more along the lines of, "Come back later." Jason did. The two became officially engaged on Valentine's Day 2004. Though the Cutshall family liked Jason, they weren't sure about his lifestyle.
"I said, 'Are you sure you want to live in a tent?' " recalls Lindsay's sister, Kerry, smiling at the memory. "She said she was sure."
In June, Jason and Lindsay headed for Coloma to work as camp counselors at Rock-n-Water, a Christian adventure camp. "We knew right away that Jason had a lot of experience and Lindsay was a sweetheart," says Craig Lomax, manager of the camp. "They were excellent at their jobs. They were both at the extreme level."
The couple didn't want their relationship to be a distraction and didn't tell any of their fellow counselors they were engaged. Many didn't know until near the end of the season in August.
The two stood out that summer - Jason for his rafting experience and Lindsay for her willingness to talk and pray with campers late into the night. But the summer had been hard on her. Lindsay was homesick and longed for a bath. "I can't wait to go home and get this dirt off me," she told her mother on the phone two weeks before she died. Lindsay was planning to go home the following week to finish up last-minute wedding details.
In one of her last conversations with her mother, Lindsay said she wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge before she came home.
So, on the last Friday night of camp, Jason and Lindsay packed up her red 1992 Ford Tempo and headed to the Bay Area for the weekend. They didn't tell anyone where they were going, but they were in a good mood when they left.
From photos and store receipts, detectives know the two made it to San Francisco.
In one picture, Jason is holding the camera in front of their faces. The Golden Gate Bridge is in the background. The two are looking at the camera and laughing hard, the wind blowing their hair.
It is the last photo of Jason and Lindsay alive, leaving their family haunted by what-ifs.
Jason and Lindsay's legacy: They have inspired their communities and their families, who have grown deeper in their faith. Detectives say they are determined to find the killer, for the families' sake.