The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in Washington says a 55-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the cold case of a young Saanich couple found murdered in Washington state in 1987.
According to investigators, William Earl Talbott II, who is from the Seattle-Tacoma area, has been taken into custody. He has been charged with the first-degree murder of Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18.
Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend, 20-year-old Jay Cook, were found dead near Seattle in November 1987.
The couple had travelled to Victoria to Port Angeles on Nov. 18, 1987, via the Coho ferry. They were last seen in the Bremerton-Seattle area but did not arrive in Seattle. They were reported missing on Nov. 20, 1987.
Van Cuylenborg’s body was discovered in a ditch 20 kilometres south of Bellingham, Wash. on Nov. 24, 1987. Then on Nov. 26, 1987, Cook’s body was found south of Monroe, Wash. near the Washington State Reformatory, which was operational at the time. His body was covered by a blue blanket that did not belong to the couple.
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
The announcement about the arrest was made during a news conference about the 1987 double-homicides. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said Talbott was taken into custody Thursday as he left work in Seattle. They also said he did not talk to officers during the arrest.
This news conference concerns the 1987 double homicide of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook. Tanya’s body was found in Skagit County but no suspects were ever identified. Using genetic genealogy, detectives were able to identify the suspect and make an arrest last night, May 17, in Seattle. The suspect is 55-year-old William Earl Talbot II.
Posted by Skagit County Sheriff's Office on Friday, May 18, 2018
“Yesterday’s arrest shows how powerful it can be to combine new DNA technology with the relentless determination of detectives,” Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said during the news conference.
Laura Baanstra, a sister of Jay Cook, noted that it was unlikely the case would have been solved without the hard work of investigators and technological advancements.
“For my family and I, it is our first day without the weight, the burden, the hurting that comes from not knowing who killed my brother Jake and his sweet, shy girlfriend Tanya,” Baanstra said.
“It’s hard to put into words this feeling of relief, joy and great sorrow that this arrest brings. While hole that is left in our hearts will never be filled completely, the work done here by these incredible hardworking professionals both now and 30 years ago has helped make the hole smaller.”
Talbott has only been charged with Van Cuylenborg’s murder so far but police expect he would be charged with Cook’s murder at a later date.
Five weeks ago in April, police revealed the face of the man they believe killed the couple, with the help of DNA phenotyping technology that used DNA samples from more than 30 years ago. The images released by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office showed a Caucasian man with fair hair and green or hazel eyes.
Researchers developed composite sketches of the suspect aging over the years. Within a week of its release, Saanich police said they received more than 125 tips about the two Oak Bay High School graduates. Police in Washington said they received more than 100 tips.
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 a relationship between an individual and their ancestors. The Golden State Killer suspect was also arrested after police used DN A information on a genealogy website to track him down.
In this cold case, a digital file containing DNA genotype data from evidence at the crime scene was uploaded to GEDmatch, a public genetic genealogy website. Matches were found for two of the suspect’s relatives.
Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company in Virginia that also developed the composite sketches, discovered Talbott’s identity from the matches and police then got an abandoned DNA sample from a cup he had used.
Washington State Patrol confirmed the sample positively matched the DNA profile from the crime scene evidence.
Talbot is still in custody and was expected to appear in court Friday afternoon.
The investigation into the murders is ongoing and Washington state police are now looking to speak with anyone who knew Talbot or his activities in 1987 or 1988.
They also want to speak to anyone who saw Talbott associated with the Cook family van in 1987, anyone who has information about Talbott having a light blue blanket or know where this type of blanket might have come from around the time the crimes were committed and anyone who saw Talbott with a 35 mm 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, Ore. in 1990 but the camera body was never found.
Police said Talbott would have been 24-years-old at the time of the murders.
If anyone has information related to this case or suspect, they can contact the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line online or at 425-388-3845.