The secluded California beach was an idyllic spot for a couple who loved the outdoors.
Lindsay Cutshall, 22, and Jason Allen, 26, were tucked up in their sleeping bags on the sand, listening to the waves lapping the shore.
They talked about their wedding day, which was only weeks away, and excitedly planned their lives together.
The devoutly religious pair read their Bible and marvelled at the natural beauty around them.
Just earlier, they’d written in a visitors’ log in a shack on the beach.
‘As I stir this mac and cheese, I think to myself, “What a wonderful life,”’ Jason wrote.
‘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.’
Lindsay was just as happy. ‘The sun is going down on the horizon,’ she wrote. ‘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.’
Their faith had united them from the very beginning, when they’d first met at Bible college.
Jason, from Michigan, loved outdoor activities and was a natural at guiding young people on the right path. He had a calling to minister the youth.
Jason would joke to his family that he didn’t expect to get married as he couldn’t imagine meeting a girl who would join him camping – then he met Lindsay from Ohio.
They were engaged just six weeks later. Friends and family couldn’t believe how perfect they were for each other.
A quiet camping trip
Now, it was August 2004, and the pair were spending the summer working at the Christian outdoor adventure camp, Rock-N-Water, in California.
They were on hand as counsellors, taught Bible studies and were also water rafting guides. With their wedding so close, Lindsay had already bought her white beaded gown, adorned with pink flowers.
Her dad was a pastor and was officiating their special day. But before finishing their summer jobs and heading home, they decided to spend the weekend on a road trip exploring the northern California coast.
They packed up Lindsay’s red Ford Tempo and started a three-day sightseeing tour. After stopping at the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz along the way, they found themselves in the quiet, sleepy town of Jenner on 14 August.
It was a Saturday night and the local hotel was full. It’s thought that’s why they decided to camp out at the local Fish Head Beach.
Camping was prohibited, but it was just for one night. They parked up nearby and headed down to a sheltered spot before setting up for the night.
But that Monday, they didn’t return to their jobs and their worried families hadn’t heard from them. On 16 August, a missing persons’ report was filed.
By coincidence, two days later, a helicopter was sent up by police to search for a missing man who was stuck on a cliff near Jenner. From the air, they spotted two bodies in bloodstained sleeping bags down on Fish Head Beach.
Lindsay and Jason were found dead. They’d both been shot at close range in the head with a rifle. There was no sign of sexual assault and nothing had been taken – Lindsay was still wearing her jewellery. Police struggled to find a motive.
Their violent murders shocked the quiet area of Jenner. Investigators looked into every possible clue. They questioned drifters who slept on the beach and even analysed graffiti on driftwood.
Officers went door to door looking for the unusual Marlin rifle that was used – a gun popular with hunters. Even a $50,000 reward brought them no closer to the killer.
A decade of hell
For over a decade, Jason and Lindsay’s grieving families had no answers. A memorial stone cross was secured on the rocks overlooking the beach where they had been slain.
They found comfort in their faith and chose to believe the couple were both asleep when they were shot and hadn’t suffered.
Then, on 24 March, 2017, there was a 911 call made from a home in nearby Forestville, reporting a shooting. When officers arrived, they found Shamus Gallon, 36, dead from gunshot wounds.
They arrested his older brother Shaun, then 38, who lived there with Shamus and their mum. Shaun willingly admitted he’d killed his brother.
When questioned, police already knew of Shaun. He had a long criminal record and had served time in prison for firing an arrow at two men through a car roof in 2009.
Shaun was a self-confessed survivalist who often took photos of himself with homemade bows and even a spear. He would poach animals, chop them up and leave pieces around the house and in the fridge.
Locals knew him as a troubled man who didn’t mix much.
Shaun confessed that he had, without warning, got a gun that he’d built himself and had walked upstairs and shot his brother in the chest at point-blank range, then fired again into his neck.
When asked why he’d done it, the only explanation was that Shamus had held a grudge ever since Shaun had punched him in childhood.
‘If [Shamus] would have just gotten over it, this never would have happened,’ he said.
A dangerous man
Police also connected Shaun to a bombing back in 2004 – just months before the Jenner beach murders.
Shaun had built a bomb from an old grenade and had left it in a gift box on top of a car belonging to John Robles; a man Shaun had a bar fight with a few years earlier. Having festered on it, Shaun decided to harm John but when it had detonated, it had maimed his partner instead.
But then Shaun told police he wanted to talk about the couple who were shot on the beach. Shaun confessed that he had killed Lindsay and Jason 13 years earlier.
Police were wary, but Shaun had details only the killer would have known. He said that day, he’d been driving along, feeling upset about the way his life was going.
Shaun would later say he was mentally fine until he’d taken excessive amounts of the drug LSD in 2001 that had left him tormented with ‘voices and demons’.
Shaun had stopped and used a torch to go down and visit the beach. He’d seen Lindsay and Jason there, and told officers they shouldn’t have been there. He went back to his car for a gun.
‘That’s when I snapped. I was like, “Oh my God, I’m just going to start killing people,”’ he said, later adding that, ‘I was gonna kill them out of spite.’
Shaun returned and shot them both dead – they were strangers to him. Shaun directed police to a drink can stashed in a bush at the side of a nearby road. It contained the shell casings that he’d picked up from the scene.
It turned out that Shaun had actually been a suspect at the time.
He’d been found a week after the killings nearby with a loaded gun in his pocket. But it didn’t match the weapon used to kill the couple – Shaun had already got his dad to get rid of that. Shaun’s father took his own life in 2013.
In June 2019, Shaun, then 40, pleaded no contest to murdering Lindsay, Jason and Shamus. The court heard his confessions and it was tough to listen to for the victims’ loved ones.
The families were shocked to hear that, contrary to what they believed, Lindsay had not been asleep when she was murdered.
Prosecutors played an audio of Gallon’s confession, in which he described how he’d shot Jason first, prompting Lindsay to sit up for a moment in alarm, before being gunned down, too.
‘I saw two people asleep in sleeping bags, just layin’ there,’ he told the detective. ‘I just made myself do it… like, I don’t know what I was thinking.’
Shaun described picking up the spent shell casings and thought about digging the bullets out of the bodies but just drove away. There was sobbing in the courtroom.
Shaun was sentenced to three life sentences, plus more than 94 years for other crimes, including planting a car bomb. There was no possibility of parole.
‘It’s crystal clear you deserve to spend the rest of your life in prison and then some,’ the judge said.
Lindsay’s mum, Kathy Cutshall, held up her late daughter’s wedding dress. ‘I brought this because it is empty,’ she told him. ‘It represents what they lost.’
Her husband, Chris, brought one of his daughter’s hair ties, which he had found at home, still with strands of her hair tangled in it. And her gold ring, which he wears on his little finger.
‘To think I was just three and a half weeks away from officiating that wedding,’ he said. ‘But then pure evil walked down on that beach and came upon two sleeping people. I’m a man with a broken heart, and I always will be, and I’m OK with that. Lindsay’s worth it.’
A letter from Jason’s parents was read out. ‘Shaun Gallon broke our hearts beyond description,’ it said. ‘Our family changed forever that horrible night. A huge part of us was gone.’
The families of Lindsay and Jason finally had answers about what happened, but it was a long and painful journey and won’t bring back the future the couple had planned.
They’d gone to sleep so grateful that they’d found each other – but evil had found them, too.
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