Trial begins this week in cold case murder of young Saanich couple

Jury selection is underway in the trial of a Washington state man charged with murdering a Saanich couple more than three decades ago.

More than three decades after his sister was killed, John Van Cuylenborg is bracing himself for the murder trial.

“It won’t be easy,” Van Cuylenborg says. “We’ll endure that as a family but in the end the greater good is being served by the result hopefully.”

Tanya Van Cuylenborg’s body was found in Washington State in 1987.  She’d been sexually assaulted and shot.

Her boyfriend, 20-year-old Jay Cook, was strangled. But despite thousands of hours of police work, the case went cold.

“It weighed heavily on us because it was such an open question, all aspects of the case,” Van Cuylenborg says. “At least this is starting to give us some answers.”

Truck driver William Earl Talbott is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Police had Talbott’s DNA from the crime scene but it wasn’t until advances in testing — and the ability to search online genealogy databases — led them to a distant relative.

It was the break in the case police had been looking for it and came last year, 31 years after the Saanich couple was murdered.

“You’re able to make much further comparisons and make these family trees where we might be able to associate people who only share a great, great grandparent whereas the older technology just wasn’t able to do that,” explains B.C. Institute of Technology forensic scientist Stein Heartson.

Van Cuylenborg, who will be testifying at the trial, says he’ll likely never know why his sister was killed.

But he’s hopeful justice will be served.

“It will bring some closure but I don’t think it’s closure in that well all feel good now,” he says. “That’s not going to happen and nothing is going to bring the kids back.”

Talbott’s pleaded not guilty. The trial is expected to take up to four weeks.

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