New DNA technology has led to the arrest of a Washington State man in connection with a 30-year cold case file of two murdered British Columbia residents.
Samples from the scene of the 1987 murder of Tanya van Cuylenborg led to the arrest of 55-year-old William Earl Talbott of SeaTac. He was taken into custody Thursday night (May 17) in Seattle and booked on one count of first degree murder.
Snohomish County Courthouse held a press conference today announcing these new developments in the case that shocked the families of 18-year-old Tanya and 20-year-old Jay Cook, who were reported missing on Nov. 20, 1987.
The high school sweethearts, who had recently graduated from Oak Bay High in Victoria, hopped on the Coho ferry to Port Angeles and never came home.
Their bodies were found a few days later – van Cuylenborg’s on a rural road in Skagit County, sexually assaulted and shot in the back of the head, Cook’s further south in Snohomish County, beaten and strangled.
Detectives continue to gather and process evidence and interview witnesses related to the investigation of Cook’s murder. They ask anyone to come forward with information, specifically anyone who:
- Knew Talbott or knew of his activities in 1987 or 1988
- Saw Talbott associated with the Cook family van (see van photo) in November 1987
- Saw Talbott with a 35mm Minolta camera that Tanya had in her possession when she was murdered. (The camera’s lens was recovered and traced to a pawn shop in Portland, Oregon in 1990, but the camera body is still missing)
- Has information about Talbott having access to a light blue blanket, or know where this type of blanket might have come from around the time the crimes were committed.
Talbott was 24-years-old at the time of the alleged crime and is believed to have lived in the Woodinville area of Washington State in 1987. His parents’ home was approximately 10 km from where Cook’s body was found.
“We never gave up hope that we would find Jay and Tanya’s killer,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary. “Yesterday’s arrest shows how powerful it can be to combine new DNA technology with the relentless determination of detectives.”
Detectives from the Snohomish and Skagit County Sheriff's Offices arrested a 55YO SeaTac Man for the 11/1987 murder of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg. pic.twitter.com/fYJry0Wpnp
— Snohomish Sheriff (@SnoCoSheriff) May 18, 2018
Officials say Talbott was identified as a suspect through the use of genetic genealogy, which uses DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between and individual and their ancestors.
The successful identification of Talbott was helped by Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA tech company in Virginia that performed the analysis for this case.
A digital file containing DNA genotype data derived from evidence at the crime scene was uploaded to GEDmatch, a public genetic genealogy website, and matches were found for two of the suspect’s relatives, according to a release from the Snohomish Country Sheriff’s Office.
After Talbott’s identity was determined, police used a DNA sample from a cup he had used and a local crime lab confirmed that it positively matched the DNA profile from the crime scene evidence.
This is the first arrest of a murder suspect using results from Parabon’s genetic genealogy service, which became available less than two weeks ago.
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