Death on the Beach

UPDATED 09/06/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/06/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

On Aug. 13 Lindsay Cutshall and Jason Allen set out from Rock-N-Water, a Christian adventure camp in the Sierra foothills of Northern California, where both were spending the summer as rafting guides. Their weekend plan was to hit San Francisco, then head for a beach before returning to welcome a new batch of campers. For Cutshall, 23, and Allen, 26, the trip had special meaning: It was to be their last as singles before heading home to rural Fresno, Ohio, to exchange marriage vows on Sept. 11.

They never made it. On Aug. 18 the two were discovered by a helicopter pilot on a remote beach in Sonoma County, each zipped into a sleeping bag—and shot through the head at close range. When police found no evidence of robbery, sexual assault or a murder-suicide, they honed in on the possibility of a religious hate crime. On Aug. 24, Sonoma County detectives issued a statewide alert seeking Nicholas Scarseth, 21, whom they said was reportedly in the area at the time of the killings and was "wanted for questioning." That afternoon Scarseth turned himself in for questioning. His father, Mark, of Chippewa Falls, Wis., says that while Nicholas has a drinking problem, he has "never fired a gun in his life. He's not a hateful person." Scarseth's mother, Karen, told the Associated Press that in bars Nicholas "brings up religion and politics to irritate people. He likes to stir people up."

Cutshall and Allen met about two years ago at Appalachian Bible College in Bradley, W.Va., where Cutshall completed a two-year degree, and Allen earned a four-year degree in Bible. After six weeks of dating, Allen phoned 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. Justice, he said, would ultimately be served, "if not in this life, certainly in the life to come."

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