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Crime

Suspect Identified 13 Years After Engaged Couple Fatally Shot in Their Sleeping Bags on Calif. Beach

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Jason Allen and Lindsay Cutshall
Sonoma Sheriff

For nearly 13 years, the fatal shooting of a young, engaged couple whose bodies were found side-by-side in their sleeping bags on a secluded California beach has remained a mystery.

Christian youth camp workers Lindsay Cutshall, 22, and her fiancé, Jason Allen, 26, were shot in the head at close range near the coastal town of Jenner, California, in Sonoma County, on August 18, 2004.

But after questioning Shaun Gallon, 38, of Forestville, California, who had been charged in his brother’s March 25 fatal shooting, authorities believe they’ve made a breakthrough, Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas said at a Friday press conference.

Gallon hasn’t yet been charged in the beach shootings, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office tells PEOPLE. “We are completing our investigation,” she says.

But based on statements Gallon gave sheriff’s office detectives he said authorities “feel confident that we have [the] killer in custody.”

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Gallon, who Freitas said was already “well-known to authorities,” has been in police custody since March 25, when he was charged with killing his 36-year-old brother Shamus Gallon in the home they shared with their mother.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment last month.

While Gallon was in custody, Freitas said authorities “took another opportunity” to question him about the killings of Cutshall and Allen, a case that drew national attention.

During questioning, Gallon “made statements to the detectives with new information and additional investigative leads into the case,” Freitas alleged, adding that Gallon had “information about the killings that no other person could have known and we have located evidence that corroborates his information.”

Gallon had always been a person of interest in the case, “who detectives never ruled out as a possible suspect,” the sheriff said.

Freitas encouraged anyone with information about Gallon or the murders to contact the sheriff’s office.

It is unknown whether Gallon has retained an attorney at this point to comment on his behalf.

Killed in Their Sleep

Cutshall, who was from Fresno, Ohio, and Allen, who was from Zeeland, Michigan, were working as summer rafting guides for Rock-N-Water, a Christian adventure camp in the Sierra foothills of Northern California.

They had met about two years earlier at Appalachian Bible College in Bradley, West Virginia. After just six weeks of dating, Allen called Cutshall’s father, Chris, to ask for her hand in marriage.

“It was like those two were made for each other,” Chris, a pastor, told mourners on Aug. 20, 2004. Justice, he said, would ultimately be served, “if not in this life, certainly in the life to come.”

With a month left before they planned to get married on Sept. 11, 2004, the couple went on a three-day sightseeing trip of the Northern California coast — first to San Francisco, then to Fish Head Beach.

Authorities believe they were shot in their sleep.

Their bodies were found by chance on August 18 during a helicopter search for a man who was stranded on a cliff near the beach.

The motive for the killings is still unknown. Police at the time found no evidence of robbery, sexual assault or of a murder-suicide. Freitas said authorities believed the killing of the young couple was random.

The couple’s parents expressed their gratitude to the Sheriff’s Office for never giving up on the case, and to the community for their years of support.

Bob and Delores Allen and Chris and Kathy Cutshall said in a statement read by Freitas that they “are extremely pleased that our children’s [alleged] murderer is in custody where he belongs.”

“We are especially grateful to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office for their tireless pursuit of Jason’s and Lindsay’s killer,” they wrote, adding, “The combination of their humanity and professionalism would not allow them to give up on this case.”