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Read a 2014 Sonoma Magazine story on the 10-year anniversary of the killings and the life-changing effect they had on Sheriff Steve Freitas here


For past coverage of the slayings go here

Soon after Shaun Gallon was jailed as a suspect in the March killing of his brother, detectives told him they wanted to talk about another crime — the killing 13 years earlier of a young Midwestern couple camping at a Jenner beach.

Gallon, 38, didn’t talk then. But weeks later, the Forestville man handed a Sonoma County jail guard a note, according to sources knowledgeable about the case.

The note set in motion a series of interviews between Gallon and detectives about the 2004 shooting deaths of Lindsay Cutshall, 22, and her fiancé, Jason Allen, 26, as they slept on the sand at Fish Head Beach.

What had been a stalled investigation shifted into high gear. On May 1, a team of search-and-rescue volunteers began searching a dense thicket off a west Sonoma County road, eventually finding evidence linked to the killings, just as Gallon said they would, sources said.

By May 5, Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas was behind a lectern announcing Gallon “had information about the killings that no other person could have known and we have located evidence that corroborated his statement.

“We feel confident we have Jason’s and Lindsay’s killer in custody,” Freitas said.

Gallon has yet to be charged with the killings, despite strong statements by Freitas and other sheriff’s officials pointing to him as the shooter. It likely will take months before detectives finish their investigation and seek formal charges, said Lt. Tim Duke, who oversees the sheriff’s violent crime investigations unit.

There is no legal pressure to move faster.

Gallon was already being held without bail. He’s charged in the shooting death of his younger brother, Shamus Gallon, 36, in March in a spate of gunfire at their mother’s Forestville home.

Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi said Gallon is being housed in a special jail unit for inmates with mental health issues. He may have been too distraught over his brother’s death to give accurate statements to detectives, she said.

“Perhaps he’s given them information that is simply untrue,” Pozzi said.

What is known is that Allen and Cutshall were camping on the Sonoma Coast beach during a break from their work as counselors at a Christian adventure camp in the Sierra Nevada.

They were found dead Aug. 18, 2004, in their separate sleeping bags from gunshot wounds to their heads. They had been shot at close range with a .45-caliber rifle.

Early on, Gallon was on a list of suspects in the double murder.

But as other suspects came and went over the next 13 years amid a changing cast of detectives, Gallon’s name remained a constant.

Gallon had grown up along the Russian River and quickly caught the attention of detectives in the Jenner case. He was arrested six days after the deaths on weapons and stolen property charges, which later were dropped. Over the years, he’d been arrested and crossed paths with deputies 13 times, been to jail and had a stint in prison for a 2010 conviction for firing an arrow into an occupied car. His continuing criminal exploits helped keep him on the suspect list.

More than 10 suspects were on that list, Duke said. Alibis and other information helped eliminate some. But not Gallon.

“As we narrowed the suspect pool, this individual remained in the pool all the way up to the end,” Duke said.

Throughout the years, the case has been worked by different detectives, with help from federal agents and local agencies. Now, work done in the first few years is providing a foundation for the case today, Duke said.

He was the lead investigator when the bodies were found on the isolated beach and now oversees the ongoing effort to build a case against Gallon. While the veteran detective said he wished they’d finished the investigation sooner, the regret is somewhat eased by knowing “we did everything possible we could,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder.”

Sheriff’s officials have declined to discuss whether Gallon confessed or what specific evidence has come to light.

“Something clicked in his mind and he wanted to talk about it,” sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Spencer Crum said.

Once that happened, Gallon was brought across the street from the jail to the Sheriff’s Office to meet with detectives. He was read his rights, waived them and talked, Crum said.

The information Gallon provided kick-started the cold case, which remains active with interviews still to be conducted, and evidence documented, corroborated and packaged for prosecutors, Duke said.

“We’re going to take our time and give the District Attorney’s Office the best possible case,” Duke said.

The May 5 press conference naming Gallon was held sooner than planned, because word was leaking that Gallon was a suspect in the 2004 homicides.

Brian Staebell, a spokesman for District Attorney Jill Ravitch, said his office will decide on appropriate charges after it receives the investigative reports and thoroughly reviews them.

Also, prosecutors will announce whether they intend to seek the death penalty under a special circumstances allegation for a double murder.

“We are going to act as expeditiously as we can to make the right decision,” Staebell said.

In the meantime, Staebell said Gallon remains charged with the murder of his brother. A preliminary hearing in that case is set for July 23. He could not say if it would be postponed in light of pending charges.

Although Pozzi said it was “unjust” for detectives to question Gallon about the Jenner killings without his lawyer present, any information they received could still be used against him at trial, a legal expert said.

W. David Ball, associate professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, said Gallon’s constitutional right to counsel in his brother’s slaying does not extend to a separate case. That’s especially true if Gallon knowingly and voluntarily waived his right against self-incrimination, Ball said.

“I mean, someone writing a note to police on his own initiative, someone who just thought it over and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll talk about it,’ I would think that would go in favor of admissibility,” Ball said.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707-521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@rossmannreport. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 707-568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.

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