William Earl Talbott II, 55, of SeaTac, is led into court for arraignment in the 1987 death of Tanya Van Cuylenborg at the Skagit County Community Justice Center on Friday in Mount Vernon. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Arrest made in 30-year homicide cold case of Oak Bay High grads

55-year-old William Earl Talbott II of Seatac was taken into custody Thursday

New DNA technology has led to the arrest of a Washington State man in connection with a 30-year cold case in the deaths of two Oak Bay High grads.

DNA samples from the scene of the 1987 killing of 18-year-old Tanya van Cuylenborg has led to the arrest of 55-year-old William Earl Talbott II of Seatac. Talbott was taken into custody May 17 in Seattle.

Van Cuylenborg and her 20 year-old boyfriend Jay Cook hopped on the Coho ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles on Nov. 18, 1987, for a quick trip to Seattle. They never came home. Their bodies were found a few days later – van Cuylenborg’s on a rural road in Skagit County, sexually assaulted and shot in the back of the head, Cook’s further south in Snohomish County, beaten and strangled.

“There have been a number of suspects over the years that have been investigated and ruled out through one means or another,” said John van Cuylenborg, Tanya’s brother.

In April, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office hoped that new technology would change that after they released digital sketches of the suspect’s face created through phenotyping, a technology that can estimate a person’s appearance based on DNA.

Sheriff’s detectives were given dozens of new leads since April. Today they announced a DNA match.

“We never gave up hope that we would find Jay and Tanya’s killer,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary. “Yesterday’s arrest shows how powerful it can be to combine new DNA technology with the relentless determination of detectives.”

Talbott has been booked into the Snohomish County jail on one count of 1st degree murder for the killing of Van Cuylenborg. Detectives continue to gather and process evidence and interview witnesses related to the investigation of Cook’s murder.

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office says Talbott, who has been working as a truck driver in the Seattle area, was never on the suspect list in this case.

Talbott was 24-years-old at the time of the alleged crime and is believed to have lived in the Woodinville area of Washington State in 1987. His parents’ home was approximately 10 km from where Cook’s body was found.

Because of this arrest, 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 in November 1987;
  • saw Talbott with a 35mm 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, Oregon in 1990, but the camera body is still missing;
  • has information about Talbott having access to a light blue blanket, or know where this type of blanket might have come from around the time the crimes were committed.

Anyone with information related to this case should call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line 425-388-3845.

RELATED: DNA sketch aims to crack 30-year old murder case of Oak Bay High grads

Officials say Talbott was identified as a suspect through the use of genetic genealogy, which uses DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between an individual and their ancestors.

The successful identification of Talbott was helped by Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA tech company in Virginia that performed the analysis for this 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 matches were found for two of the suspect’s relatives, according to a release from the Snohomish Country Sheriff’s Office.

After Talbott’s identity was determined, police used a DNA sample from a cup he had used and a local 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 available less than two weeks ago.

“We are honored to have helped solve this case,” said Dr. Steven Armentrout, CEO of Parabon. He added, “Given the power of these new methods, we believe it is but the first of many.”


 

keri.coles@oakbaynews.com

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Ian Terry / The Herald Snohomish County Cold Case Detective Jim Scharf (right) shares details of the unsolved case of the 1987 double homicide of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg during a press conference in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Photo taken on 04112018 Ian Terry / The Herald Snohomish County Cold Case Detective Jim Scharf (right) shares details of the unsolved case of the 1987 double homicide of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg during a press conference in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Snohomish County Cold Case Detective Jim Scharf (right) shares details of the 1987 double homicide of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg during a press conference in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (Ian Terry / Black Press)

Cook family van. Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook with the van they drove to the United States, a bronze 1977 Ford Club wagon. The van was located in Whatcom County (Washington State), locked up and abandoned, in a Blue Diamond parking lot near State and Holly Streets in Bellingham on 11/25/1987. Anyone with information related to this case should call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line 425-388-3845.

35mm 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, Oregon in 1990, but the camera body is still missing.

Has information about Talbott having access to a light blue blanket, or know where this type of blanket might have come from around the time the crimes were committed. Anyone with information related to this case should call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line 425-388-3845.

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