JENNER — In a moment that combined both a mother’s love and a mother’s loss, Kathy Cutshall raised the flowers to her lips, kissed the bouquet and laid it on the sand where her 22-year-old daughter, Lindsay, was killed a decade earlier.
A separate bunch of blossoms fastened to a simple cane cross lay on the spot where Lindsay’s fiance, Jason Allen, 26, died.
The couple’s bodies were found three days after their deaths at the makeshift beach campsite where they had slept side-by-side.
Gathered in that place Friday on the 10th anniversary of the young couple’s death, family members and other loved ones revisited that dark time when the pair was found after disappearing on a weekend away from the Christian camp near Placerville where they worked.
But those assembled Friday celebrated more than they mourned, rejoicing in the couple’s love and in the enduring faith that has allowed friends and family to carry on, confident that Lindsay and Jason are in a better place where they all one day will be united.
“What happened on that beach ... it isn’t the whole story,” Lindsay’s sister, Kerry Croghan, 36, said during an earlier memorial service a short way down the coast at Goat Rock Beach.
“When Satan struck them down, God raised them up,” Lindsay’s father, Chris Cutshall, said.
The Cutshalls — Chris, Kathy, Croghan, her husband, Ben, and their two little boys, all from Fresno, Ohio — were among 50 people who came together from across the continent Friday to honor Lindsay and Jason, whose deaths on the beach below Jenner in 2004 struck fear in the coastal community.
Among them were the camp directors and others from Rock-N-Water, the El Dorado County camp where the engaged couple shared their devout faith and outdoor adventures with young campers in the weeks before their chilling end.
There were close friends and classmates from Appalachian Bible College in West Virginia, and members of the faith family from Fresno (Ohio) Bible Church, where Chris Cutshall is pastor. Others came from as far away as Toronto.
One college friend, Christine Perdue, took a Greyhound bus cross-country from West Virginia to be with the Cutshalls and express her continuing love and support.
“It was very important to be here,” said Karie Zeager, Lindsay’s close friend and would-be bridesmaid, now of Lancaster, Pa.
Several detectives and others from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office who have worked the case over the years also attended, including Sheriff Steve Freitas, who became deeply religious after meeting the Cutshalls and on Friday called his religious rebirth “evidence of God’s plan.”
“Only God’s love can take a thing like this and make good out of it,” Freitas said during halting remarks at the service.
Jason Allen’s parents, Delores and Bob Allen of Zeeland, Mich., were unable to come to California. But they sent a message to be read aloud, and said they and other family members would stand on the shore of Lake Michigan in solidarity with those who traveled to the West Coast.
That family and friends should be on the beach as they marked 10 years since the still-unsolved murders occurred was the idea of Kathy Cutshall, who always had regretted never going beyond the top of the bluff and down to the beach where her daughter and a man she now thinks of as a son spent their last earthly moments. That so many others could and would join them wasn’t necessarily anticipated.