Trial set for U.S. man accused in cold case killing of Vancouver Island couple

Man pleads not guilty, jury selection set for June 11

  • May. 31, 2019 3:35 p.m.

Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, of Vancouver Island, were found slain in Washington in 1987. (Black Press file)

Caleb Hutton

Daily Herald

Over the objections of the defendant, a trial was delayed about a week for the SeaTac man accused of killing a Canadian couple in 1987.

“My life’s been on hold for greater than a year now for a crime that I did not commit,” William Talbott II said Friday, one of the few times the suspect has spoken in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Jury selection is now set to begin June 11.

Testimony is expected to last most of the month.

The defendant had expected to go on trial next week in the killings of Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18. The young couple from Saanich, British Columbia, vanished on a road trip from Vancouver Island to Seattle around Thanksgiving 1987.

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

Van Cuylenborg was found shot in the back of the head six days later, Nov. 24, 1987, off Parson Creek Road in Skagit County. She’d been restrained with zip ties, and detectives believe she was raped.

Cook’s battered body was discovered the same week, under a bridge southwest of Monroe. At the time, Talbott’s parents lived seven miles from the scene.

Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, of Vancouver Island, were found slain in Washington in 1987.

In spite of hundreds of leads over decades, Talbott was never identified as a suspect, until May 2018.

His arrest became international news — in part because the new forensic tool, known as genetic genealogy, that was used to identify him.

Sheriff’s detectives worked with Parabon NanoLabs and a private genealogist, CeCe Moore, to build a family tree based on male DNA found on Van Cuylenborg’s slacks. That genetic data was entered into the public database GEDmatch. The genealogist tracked down distant cousins who had uploaded their genetic data to the site, and found the blood relations came together, with a marriage, in Talbott’s family.

RELATED: DNA privacy questioned in Victoria cold case arrest

Talbott had sisters. He was the only son.

Cold case detectives put the trucker from SeaTac under police surveillance.

A cup fell from his truck in south Seattle on May 8, 2018. Police seized it, had it tested at a crime lab and confirmed it was a match, court papers say. Dozens of stories of similar arrests have unfolded nationwide in long-unsolved cases, including one other in Snohomish County.

A rift has opened among genealogists, in the debate over whether genetic data should be freely available to police, when customers of ancestry sites might not be aware their DNA could be used to solve murder, rape and assault cases.

In recent weeks, GED match changed its policy and now requires users to “opt in,” if they’re willing to let police use their genetic data to fight crime.

Other sites still allow the practice, with a notice in the terms of service.

Defense attorneys for Talbott have not filed motions arguing that the genealogy evidence is inadmissible. Prosecutors asked Friday to be notified in advance, if the technique will be challenged.

This case is expected to be the first time genetic genealogy will be put on trial.

Other defendants, like the suspected Golden State Killer, are still awaiting trial. Some suspects have pleaded guilty.

In Talbott’s trial, pretrial motions are set to be heard Friday in front of Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Linda Krese. She ruled the trial could be delayed in part because prosecutors handed over 2,369 pages of new discovery papers on May 14, and the defense hasn’t been able to read through them.

The entire case has more than 16,000 pages of discovery paperwork, deputy prosecutor Matt Baldock told the judge.

Many of those pages documented leads that turned out to be dead ends.



c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Julia Strobach. File Photo
Nearing seventh anniversary, Valley RCMP continue search for Julia Strobach

“We know that someone has information that will help us locate her.”

Comox author Loraine Hartley, with a few copies of her debut novel, “My Delightfully Dysfunctional Family.” Photo supplied
Comox author pens novel about life in a blended family

Generally speaking, authors write their books, then determine a title. But not… Continue reading

Police reported more than 2.2 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic offences) in 2019 within Canada- 164,784 more than in 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Crime Severity Index on the rise with the Valley, Canada: StatsCan

There were 1,450 actual incidents in the Comox Valley in 2019

Joyce Jay enjoys a moment with Georgia, her son Ed’s dog, at her Comox home. Joyce is 103 years old. Scott Stanfield photo
Comox centenarian recalls wartime Britain, moving to Canada

Joyce Jay isn’t one to shy away from adventure. She wanted to… Continue reading

The distance education program through Navigate (NIDES) has been seen some large gains in enrolment. Image, screenshot
Comox Valley school enrolment up despite fewer kids in class

Growth being driven heavily by increase in distance education numbers

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

It’s volleyball season at schools in the Comox Valley, in a cohorted environment. Tournament play or matches between schools are not happening during COVID. File photo
Comox Valley Schools re-opens sports at practice level

Comox Valley Schools has re-opened sports at a practice level, but as… Continue reading

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Most Read