DNA analysis could help solve 30-year-old double murder of Victoria couple in Washington state

DNA analysis could help solve 30-year-old double murder of Victoria couple in Washington state

WATCH: The murders of a young Saanich couple has stumped police in Washington state for more than three decades. But thanks to new DNA technology, detectives may be closer to finding out the identity of the killer. Investigators are holding a news conference Wednesday at the Snohomish County Sherrif’s Office to unveil “new suspect information” in the cold case. Mary Griffin reports.

In 1988 Skagit County Sheriff Gary Frazier admitted they had no suspects.

“We have had no solid suspects,” said Frazier at the time.

“We have had no people we could even consider to be close to being a suspect.”

Two young Saanich residents, 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg and 20-year-old Jay Cook, were found murdered in Washington state in November 1987.

And now for the first time, detectives are closer to solving the crime thanks to new DNA technology, called Snapshot DNA phenotyping.

“The trick is just to figure out what parts to look at and make those predictions, and learn something new, just based on the DNA,” Ellen McRae Greytak, the director of bioinformatics at Parabon Nanolabs, the company that developed the technology, said.

“We’ve helped solve quite a number of cases, some as old as 25 years.”

DNA from the suspect was collected when Van Cuylenborg’s body was found, however, authorities have never been able to trace it to anyone.

The couple was last seen boarding a ferry to Seattle and were supposed to spend the night in their vehicle parked near the Kingdome. Four days later, a local resident discovered Van Cuylenborg’s body in a ditch south of Bellingham, Wash. Investigators determined her killer sexually assaulted her, then shot her.

Cook’s body turned up under a bridge in a remote part of Snohomish County, beaten, then strangled to death.

Tanya’s older brother by two-and-a-half years, John Van Cuylenborg, is optimistic the police may be on the road to solving the case.

“It was just a horrible time and continues to be a difficult matter to come to terms with,” John said. “This is probably the first bit of, I guess, new evidence, because, you know, all the evidence was 31 years old.”

Jay’s father, Gordon Cook,  is also optimistic.

“I had pretty much given up hope,” Gordon said. “They are hoping to generate tips for this new DNA profiling, which sounds fantastic.”

After so many years, the families just want some closure, in terms of a suspect, whether dead or alive.  , police will unveil new suspect information. Through this new DNA technology, they actually have details on what the killer looked like Jay Cook’s two sisters, and his brother-in-law will be at the Snohomish County Sheriff’s department tomorrow.


Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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