Police in Sonoma County, Calif., are now looking at the possibility that two evangelical Christians murdered on the beach as they slept were victims of a hate crime – killed because of their religious beliefs.
Investigators were “pursuing any and all leads” in the deaths of two camp counselors on weekend leave from their jobs at a religious outdoor adventure camp, a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman said.
(photos courtesy WOOD-TV, Grand Rapids, Mich.)
An autopsy concluded that Lindsay Cutshall, 23, and her fiance Jason Allen, 26, had been shot in the head at close range while they slept in their sleeping bags, with “no other signs of trauma,” Lt. Dave Edmonds, who heads the county investigations unit, said in a statement.
“From all indications, the victims were very upstanding citizens, they were very honorable people. They had an absolute absence of enemies.”
Some 25 detectives have been called into the investigation. Among possibilities they are considering is that the killing might have been a hate crime, Edmonds told reporters. The two were evangelical Christian camp counselors with plans to marry and open a Christian camp of their own.
Investigators at the scene along the rugged Sonoma County coast had found no evidence that robbery, sexual assault or suicide had occurred.
Cutshall, of Fresno, Ohio, and Allen, of Holland, Mich., had spent the summer leading white-water-rafting trips at a religious youth adventures camp in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains.
They had taken the weekend off to visit San Francisco and the coastline north of the city. When they did not return to work after the weekend, camp officials called in a missing persons report to local law enforcement officials.