It’s a murder trial they’ve been waiting over three decades for. Relatives of the young Saanich couple who were found murdered in Washington State back 1987, are finally seeing the couple’s double murder case, reach the courts.
“My dad and I, they led us into a room where there was a body,” said Tanya’s brother John Von Cuylenborg late Friday afternoon.
“It was Tanya?” asked a lawyer.
“Unfortunately, it was,” said Cuylenborg, sighing.
Fifty-six-year-old William Earl Talbott is accused of killing the then 18-year-old Tanya Von Cuylenborg and her 20-year-old boyfriend Jay Cook.
The young couple left Saanich on a road trip to Seattle in 1987. Their families never heard from them again.
“It would indicate to me that if no contact was made between mother and daughter then something serious could be wrong,” said former Saanich Police Officer Linda Cunningham in her testimony on Friday.
Tanya’s half-naked body was discovered north of Seattle. She had been shot in the back of the head.
Two days later, hunters found her boyfriend Jay’s body, who police say had been beaten with rocks and strangled with twine and two red dog collars.
Their van was found abandoned near Bellingham, with Tanya’s pants in it. Investigators found semen on the hem, matching that on her body.
“Her body had been found without a vehicle, without Jay Cook who she had been with on this trip, it was just unbelievable. Just so many questions and bewilderment as to what had transpired,” said Cuylenborg.
For 32 years, Tanya and Jay’s families have been left heartbroken, searching for answers.
But the case was brought back to life after a genealogist compared crime scene DNA to a public DNA ancestry site.
The Talbott family tree was found as a partial match, and investigators found a full DNA match after Talbott threw out a paper cup he had been drinking from.
“My client, William Talbott, has led a quiet, unremarkable life. He’s a blue-collar guy. He’s been a blue-collar guy all his life,” said defense lawyer Jon Scott.
Talbott is pleading not guilty.
But after over 30 years of unanswered questions, relatives are hoping this trial, which is expected to last four weeks, may finally deliver some answers.