Washington man found guilty of 1987 murder of young B.C. couple

The man accused last year of murdering a young B.C. couple in Washington state more than 30 years ago has been found guilty.

A jury in Everett, Wash., delivered the verdict on Friday against William Earl Talbott II, who was arrested in 2018 after investigators used genealogy to link him to the 1987 crime.

He was eventually charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder, to which he pleaded not guilty.

Eighteen-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend, 20-year-old Jay Cook, disappeared after leaving their home in Saanich for a road trip to Seattle.

About a week later, Van Cuylenborg’s body was found down an embankment in rural Skagit County north of Seattle. She was naked from the waist down and had been shot in the back of the head.

Hunters found Cook dead two days later in Monroe, Wash., nearly 100 kilometres from where his girlfriend was discovered. He had been beaten with rocks and strangled with twine and two red dog collars, authorities said.

The couple’s van was found in Bellingham, Wash., near a bus station. Van Cuylenborg’s pants were inside, and DNA was found on the hem.

Detectives investigated hundreds of leads in the ensuing decades and tested the DNA against criminal databases but to no avail.

Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook with the van in 1987.

It wasn’t until last year that investigators turned to a lab in Virginia whose genealogists used the public database GEDmatch to find distant cousins of the person who had left behind the DNA.

The results concluded the source must be a male child of William and Patricia Talbott of Monroe, Wash.

The couple had only one son: William Talbott II, who was 24 years old at the time of the murder and lived 11 kilometres from where Cook’s body was found, the court heard.

The trial leaned largely on the novel method used to find and arrest Talbott, which has since been used to arrest dozens of suspects in the U.S.

The defence attempted to paint the now-56-year-old truck driver as a “blue-collar guy” who lived a quiet, uneventful life.

Talbott faces life in prison, which is the only sentence possible. A date for his sentencing has been set for July 24.

More to come.

—With files from KIRO News and the Associated Press

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