About a dozen Sonoma County sheriff's officers and volunteers Wednesday surrounded the site where Lindsay Cutshall, 23, and her fiancé, Jason Allen, 26, were found Aug. 18 shot to death in their sleeping bags on a remote beach near the Northern California hamlet of Jenner. Some of the searchers were on their hands and knees others were sifting the dark sand for any evidence.
"Trace evidence is hard to find," Lt. Dave Edmonds of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department told the San Jose Mercury News. "This is very rugged terrain."
Edmonds said he believes investigators are making progress in the case, but wouldn't say an arrest was imminent.
Authorities Wednesday cleared a Wisconsin man who had been sought, saying he was not a suspect and apologizing to his parents for naming him in a police alert.
Nicholas Edward Scarseth, 21, called police after it was announced that he was "potential witness" in the killings. He was interviewed Tuesday, passed a polygraph test and was then released in what his parents say was a case of mistaken identity
"We have spoken with Mr. Scarseth, he was cooperative with us and we did release him. At this point we are not viewing him as a suspect," Edmonds told CBS station KPIX. "And the term 'released' is a little bit too strong because he was a person who came forward and was cooperative with us. So it was never a detention really."
Detectives visited the home of Scarseth's mother in Wisconsin to apologize for the confusion. "It was all a big mix-up," Karen Scarseth told The Associated Press in a phone interview, "a big hullabaloo about nothing."
"We need to find the person or persons responsible for this heinous act and get them off the street," said Kim Petersen, the executive director of the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation. Its Web site says its "goal is to safely return missing persons to their homes and to secure the arrest and conviction of violent criminals."
"It isn't necessary that the tip that breaks the case is one that comes out immediately," said Edmonds. "We're still hopeful for getting tips, getting more tips. we're following up on them."
Authorities also tried to ease the fears of nearby residents with a nighttime briefing at a community center attended by more than 80 people. Many appeared to be unhappy about the slow-moving investigation.
"We thought we were in a cocoon here, isolated and insulated from the rest of the world. Then this happened in our back yard," said John Chyle, a longtime resident of Jenner.
Police have seized the surveillance video from the general store in town and are using helicopters at night to do thermal imaging along the beach to try to find any camp sites.
Two people reported hearing gun shots on the night of Aug. 17 at about 8:30 p.m. and 8:50 p.m. Cutshall, of Fresno, Ohio, and Allen, of Zeeland, Mich., were reported missing Aug. 16 after they failed to show up at a Christian adventure camp in Coloma, about 40 miles east of Sacramento.