The Pacific Ocean, silver-flecked by the sun, pulls at the slight curve of Fish Head Beach. It’s been a decade since a devout young couple from the Midwest were murdered on the gray sand just north of Jenner. Most days, a salted wind bites at the steep bluffs they would have had to descend to reach the shore.
Except for the startling beauty, there is no visible memorial to Jason Allen and Lindsay Cutshall, shot dead there in August 2004 as they slept on the beach, their Bible nearby.
The crime stunned the region and captured national attention. It remains unsolved, the killer or killers still unknown.
“The ugly outside world visited us that night,” recalled Thomas Yeates, a 30-year resident of Jenner, a village of some 140 people, with seaside inns and vacation cottages, a state parks visitor center, a post office, and a gas station-deli.
Next week, Cutshall’s parents will return to Jenner to mark the 10th anniversary of the slayings. They plan a quiet ceremony at Goat Rock Beach, including the installation of a sand sculpture, to remember their daughter and her fiancé. It is another moment to live out the religious faith that shaped the couple, and defined their actions, said Lindsay’s father, Chris Cutshall.
“We’re kind of the feet and hands and voice for them,” Cutshall said.
Lindsay Cutshall grew up in Fresno, Ohio, some 2,500 miles east of Jenner. It has a small post office and a few dozen homes scattered at a distance around some railroad tracks on the edge of Ohio’s Amish Country, where narrow roads carry horse-drawn carriages and wind past red barns and fields of hay and corn.
Her father Chris, a pastor, is “broken,” he said. And he would have it no other way.
Cutshall, 59, no longer carries his slain daughter’s well-marked Bible when he preaches, as he did for several years; not every sermon can spring from the passages she highlighted. But Lindsay’s name and death — and Jason’s, too — now inhabit the vernacular of his evangelical Fresno Bible Church.
In a recent sermon, titled “The priority of love,” Cutshall told his rapt parishioners: “Did you know that Kathy and I, we pray for the man who killed our kids?… He’s our enemy, but he’s a person in need.”
Faith in God is virtually inseparable from the lives and deaths of Lindsay Cutshall and Jason Allen, 22 and 26, respectively, when they were killed.
It is inseparable from how memories of them are held by their parents, whose deep religiosity promises them a reunion with their children and embraces even their killer.
For all that, for how they have forged on, for the way the Fresno Bible Church that Lindsay grew up in has thrived since her death, for how, subsequently, disparate people found the same Christ they worship,the Cutshalls and Allens are grateful and awed.
“Yes, it was a horrible tragedy, an evil thing, but God can still take that and use that for good and for his glory,” said Delores Allen, 62, Jason’s mother, seated with her husband, Bob, 67, in the sunroom of their home in Zeeland, Mich.
Outside the house, the lawns are wide and, for the most part, no fences separate them. The town is a flat landscape; the welcome sign at its border celebrates the championships brought home by the high school sports teams.