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Suspect in 2004 Sonoma County beach slayings in custody

Lindsay Cutshall and Jason Allen were on a three-day sightseeing tour of Northern California in 2004 when they were shot to death at their campsite on a remote beach in Sonoma County.

The slayings, just weeks before the couple were to be married, stunned the area and remained a cold case for more than a decade.

But on Friday, a 38-year-old Forestville man was accused of the crime.

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Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas said Shaun Gallon gunned down Cutshall, 22, and Allen, 26, as they camped on a beach in Jenner.

Gallon, who was long considered a person of interest in the killings, was arrested in March in connection with the slaying of his younger brother, Shamus, and made comments to detectives that opened new leads in the beach killings.

Freitas said he does not believe Gallon knew the victims, and a motive in the 2004 slayings remains unclear. The sheriff expressed relief that the 13-year-old cold case had finally been closed, describing it as a “random crime.”

“There’s a lot of joy and happiness that there has been resolution,” he said.

Cutshall and Allen, who had been working at a Christian whitewater rafting camp outside Sacramento, were each shot in the head with a .45-caliber Marlin rifle, police previously said.

The couple were set to be wed by Cutshall’s father at his church in her native home of Fresno, Ohio, the next month.

“We are extremely pleased that our children’s murderer is in custody where he belongs,” read a statement from Cutshall’s and Allen’s families, read by Freitas at the press briefing. “We praise the Lord for his capture.”

Freitas would not say what made Gallon a person of interest in the killings in 2004. The sheriff’s office received approximately 1,200 calls about the case at the time of the crime, according to Freitas, who said some of the tips pointed them in Gallon’s direction.

Gallon was arrested in his brother’s shooting death in March, and detectives decided to interview him about the Jenner shootings again, Freitas said.

“He had information about the killings that no other person could have known,” the sheriff said.

Gallon killed his younger brother with a .223-caliber rifle on March 24, and was arrested with the murder weapon in his possession, according to a statement released by the sheriff’s office earlier this year. Gallon’s mother told investigators that he had shot his brother, according to the statement.

The motive in that killing was not immediately clear, a sheriff’s department spokesman said Friday. Gallon has been charged with murder in his brother’s death, but he has not yet been formally charged in the deaths of Cutshall and Allen, according to Sgt. Spencer Crum, a sheriff’s office spokesman.

Police had previously suspected Joseph Henry Burgess, a New Jersey native who had long been sought by Canadian police in a pair of 1972 shooting deaths on Vancouver Island, as the beach killer.

The shootings seemed eerily similar to the deaths of Ann Barbara Durrant and Leif Bertil Carlsson, who were also killed with a rifle. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had issued a warrant for Burgess’ arrest in the Vancouver Island killings, and contacted investigators in Sonoma County after the Jenner beach slayings made headlines, according to a detailed account of Burgess’ alleged crimes published by the Los Angeles Times in 2007.

Burgess died in a shootout with police in New Mexico in 2009. At the time, Sonoma County sheriff’s investigators were sent to New Mexico to see if Burgess left any evidence, including DNA, that would link him to the deaths of Cutshall and Allen.

Burgess was formally ruled out as a suspect years ago, authorities said.

james.queally@latimes.com

peter.king@latimes.com

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.

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UPDATES:

7:05 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas.

This article was originally published at 12:15 p.m.


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