Suspect Arrested in 1987 Double Homicide Cold Case

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Mount Vernon, WA – Detectives from the Skagit and Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office arrested 55-year old William Earl Talbott II of SeaTac, Washington for the 1987 murder of 18-year old Tanya Van Cuylenborg and 20-year old Jay Cook.

Mr. Talbott II was taken into custody without incident around 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 17th, 2018 in Seattle, WA.  He was booked into the Snohomish County jail on one count of 1st Degree Murder for the killing of Van Cuylenborg on a warrant out of Skagit County, Washington.  Mr. Talbott was then transported to the Skagit County Jail in Mount Vernon, Washington where he remains jailed on  $2,000,000.00 bail.  Detectives continue to gather and process evidence and interview witnesses related to the investigation of Cook’s murder.

Because of this arrest, detectives are asking for people to come forward with information, specifically anyone who:
Knew Talbott or knew of his activities in 1987 or 1988 (he would have been 24 years-old at the time of the murders);
Saw Talbott associated with the Cook family van (see van photo) in November 1987.
Saw Talbott with a 35mm Minolta camera (see camera photo) 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 (see blanket photo), or know where this type of blanket might have come from around the time the crimes were committed.

Detectives believe Talbott was living in the Woodinville area in 1987; his parents’ residence was approximately seven miles 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.”

“After 31 years, we are one step closer to justice,” said Skagit County Sheriff Will Reichardt. “We would not be here without the persistence of detectives in our office, and in Snohomish County, and without the invaluable support from Parabon.”

Talbott was identified as a suspect through the use of genetic genealogy, which is the use of DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between an individual and their ancestors.

Successful identification of Talbott was established with assistance from Parabon NanoLabs (Parabon), a DNA technology company in Virginia that performed genetic genealogy analysis for the 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 promising matches were found for two of the suspect’s relatives (see family tree). After Parabon’s genealogists deduced Talbott’s identity, police subsequently acquired an abandoned DNA sample from a cup he had used. Washington State Patrol’s 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 generally available less than two weeks ago.

“We are honored to have helped solve this case,” said Dr. Steven Armentrout, CEO of Parabon. He added, “Given the power of these new methods, we believe it is but the first of many.”

 

Case background
On November 18, 1987, 20 year-old Jay Cook and 18 year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg left Saanich, BC, Canada, traveling in Cook’s family van, a bronze 1977 Ford Club wagon, to Gensco Heating, a company in Seattle. Cook and Van Cuylenborg planned to pick up a part for Cook’s father and return to Canada the next day via I-5. They took the ferry from Victoria, BC, Canada, to Port Angeles, arriving around 4 p.m. Their last-known whereabouts were when they purchased a ticket at 10:16 p.m. in Bremerton for the Seattle ferry. Neither Cook nor Van Cuylenborg were seen or heard from again.

On November 24, 1987, Tanya’s partially clothed body was found in Skagit County in a ditch in a wooded area off Parson’s Creek Road between Old Hwy 99 and Prairie Road. On November 25, 1987, Cook’s van was located locked up and abandoned in a Blue Diamond parking lot near State and Holly Streets in Bellingham, Whatcom County.

On November 26, 1987, Jay Cook’s body was found in Snohomish County along Crescent Lake Road, near High Bridge Road, on the Snoqualmie River, which is approximately three-quarters of mile west of the old Washington State Reformatory’s Honor Farm near Monroe.

Tanya Van Cuylenborg

A resident of Saanich, BC (Vancouver Island), she was 18 years-old at the time of her death. Her body was found in Skagit County (Washington State) in a ditch in a wooded area off Parson’s Creek Road between Old Hwy 99 and Prairie Road on 11/24/1987.

Jay Cook

A resident of Saanich, BC (Vancouver Island), he was 20 years-old at the time of his death. His body was found in Snohomish County (Washington State) along Crescent Lake Road, near High Bridge Road on the Snoqualmie River on 11/26/1987.

Jay and Tanya with Ford Club Van

Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook with the van they drove to the United States, a bronze 1977 Ford Club wagon. The van was located in Whatcom County (Washington State), locked up and abandoned, in a Blue Diamond parking lot near State and Holly Streets in Bellingham on 11/25/1987.

Minolta Camera

Tanya owned a 35mm Minolta X-700 camera, similar to the one pictured here, serial number 2067048. The camera’s lens was recovered and traced to a pawn shop in Portland, Oregon in 1990. The camera body is still missing.

Blanket

The blanket found wrapped around Jay Cook’s body. It did not belong to either Jay or Tanya and their families had never seen it before.

Family tree
Two promising matches were found for relatives who share common ancestors with the suspect.

Double Homicide Map

A map detailing the last known whereabouts of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, where their bodies were found, and the location of suspect’s residence.

If you or anyone you know has information related to this case or suspect, please call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line 425-388-3845.

Information written and provided by Shari Ireton, Director of Communications, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

Bronlea Mishler, Communications Coordinator, Skagit County

Paula Armentrout, Parabon NanoLabs

 

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