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Mystery murder suspect fingered

2004 killings of river rafting guides akin to other violent crimes
By: Penne Usher Journal Correspondent
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Officials believe they are a step closer to solving the 2004 murder of two El Dorado County river rafting guides after a possible suspect was killed in a New Mexico shoot-out. New Mexico law enforcement officials shot and killed Joseph Henry Burgess, 62, on July 16 in a remote area in the Jemez Mountains about 30 miles east of Albuquerque. Burgess was wanted for the 1972 slaying of a couple along a Canadian beach. That crime bears striking similarities to the 2004 murder of Jason Allen, 26, of Michigan, and his 22-year-old fiancée, Lindsay Cutshall, of Ohio. The couple, who at the time worked for Rock-N-Water in El Dorado County as rafting guides, was found Aug. 18, 2004 along a narrow stretch of Fish Head Beach in Sonoma County, dead from gunshot wounds to the head. Capt. Matt McCaffrey, of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday that Burgess is a “person of interested in the murders.” “We started looking for similar cases,” he said. “There were a lot of similarities between the Jenner and Canada cases. We wanted to talk to (Burgess).” In 1972 Ann Barbara Durrant, 20, and Leif Bertil Carlsson, 19, were found shot to death in their sleeping bag on a Vancouver Island beach. Fingerprints left on a Bible at the murder scene reportedly belonged to Burgess, who hadn’t been seen or heard from since. Following more than a decade of break-ins to cabins in the Jemez Mountains in Sandoval County, New Mexico, officials set up a stakeout to try and catch the culprit responsible for stealing food and clothing. “We used helicopters and stakeout operations this past winter in an attempt to catch whoever it was,” Peter Olson, communications director for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety said Thursday. “We had no idea it was (Burgess).” During last week’s stakeout Burgess along with an officer were killed. Burgess shot and killed Sgt. Joe Harris of the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department. Harris fired his service weapon, but it’s unclear whether those shots killed Burgess. Olson said investigators found campsites used by Burgess, along with an identification card with his name on it. A .357-caliber revolver was also recovered at the scene. California investigators were surprised to hear that Burgess was located. “After all this time he turns up in 2009 in the United States — alive,” McCaffrey said. “We won’t be able to interview him but we will get DNA for analysis and a chance to look at his belongings.” McCaffrey said evidence taken from the Jenner murder scene will be examined again Burgess’ DNA looking for a link. He declined to elaborate on what evidence was taken. The 2004 murder scene indicated that an unknown assailant shot both victims, Sonoma County officials have said. There was no indication of a struggle. Cutshall and Allen were spending the summer as whitewater rafting guides at Rock-N-Water, a Christian outdoor adventure camp in Coloma. Rock N Water officials were not available when contacted by the Journal. Eric Peach, of Protect American River Canyons in Auburn and an avid white-water rafter, said he hopes the recent development brings peace to the victims’ families. “It was all so tragic,” Peach said. “They go off in bliss and there some heinous person preys on them. I felt so bad for the families. Perhaps this will help bring closure.”