(Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya van Cuylenborg, 18)

A suspect has been arrested for the murder of two young Victorians, 20-year-old Jay Cook and 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg, who were visiting Washington state in 1987.

Police in Washington say they have arrested a 55-year-old man from the SeaTac area. William Earl Talbot II was taken into custody without incident at 6 p.m. on Thursday as he left work in Seattle.

He has been charged with the first-degree murder of Tanya Van Cuylenborg, and police expect he will be charged with Cook’s murder at a later date.

Because of this arrest, Snohomish County 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.

(Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
(Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
(Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

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.

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.

The break in the 31-year case comes after police revealed a composite suspect image of a potential man they believe killed the couple.

The sheriff’s office said it received more than 100 tips after the images were released.

Talbot remains in custody and was expected to appear in court later Friday.

The Snohomish Sheriff office made the announcement during a press conference on Friday.

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

What happened in 1987

The two Oak Bay High School graduates borrowed a van from Jay Cook’s father to pick up furnace parts for him, and headed to Port Angeles on Nov. 18, 1987 via the Coho ferry.

They were last seen in the Bremerton-Seattle area, and were reported missing on Nov. 20, 1987.

On Nov. 24, Tanya van Cuylenborg’s body was discovered in a ditch on a rural road near Alger in Skagit County, about 20 kilometres south of Bellingham. She had been sexually assaulted and then shot in the head.

A day later, her wallet and keys were found behind a Bellingham tavern and the van was located next to the Bellingham Greyhound bus station.

On Nov. 26, Jay Cook’s body was found under a bridge near Monroe, Washington. He had been beaten and strangled to death.

Van Cuylenborg’s father believes that the couple may have picked up a hitchhiker.

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