EVERETT, Wash. – It’s a double murder investigation more than three decades old.
Detectives in the North Sound are seeking new leads in the deaths of two Canadians found murdered in Snohomish and Skagit counties and investigators are pinning their hopes on new DNA technology to help crack the case.
Law enforcement shared new composite sketch images of their suspect during a press conference in Everett on Wednesday.
Laura Baanstra and her family have spent 31-years wondering if the man responsible for the 1987 murder of her brother, Jay Cook, and his friend, Tanya Van Cuylenborg, would ever pay for his crimes.
“When your brother or sister, daughter or loved one walks out the door, you have no way to know that it’s the last time you will ever see them,” said Baanstra.
Investigators say the couple took a ferry from Victoria, British Columbia, to Port Angeles to eventually do business in Seattle but they never returned to Canada. Instead their bodies were found dumped in Skagit and Snohomish counties and authorities have never been able to identify the killer.
“The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office has never given up hope on solving this case because we do have DNA evidence that will identify the killer,” said Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Jim Scharf.
That DNA evidence was shipped to a company called Parabon, which used the data to extrapolate features like skin tone, eye and hair color. That information helped the firm build a series of composite sketches of the man investigators believe looks similar to their suspect. "The person of interest in our case is a white male of European decent. He has hazel or green eyes. Light brown hair. Very fair skin, possibly with freckles and possibly male-pattern baldness," said Snohomish County sheriff's Capt. Jeff Miller
“I don’t think Parabon has had 100 percent success rate on this stuff,” said Capt. Miller, “But they’ve had some successes and that’s what we’re looking for.”
It’s not the first time law enforcement in Western Washington has used Parabon to build composite sketches for cold cases.
Tacoma Police used Parabon to help generate more than 100 tips in a double homicide case from 1986.
The King County Sheriff’s Office recently unveiled the sketch of a man investigators believe murdered Sarah Yarborough in Federal Way back in 1991 and investigators continue working on 100 new tips generated by the sketches.
But using Parabon is not cheap for law enforcement. Tacoma Police spent around $8,000 and the King County Sheriff’s Office spent approximately $3,300 for Parabon’s service.
But the sketches aren’t always a slam-dunk for every case. A spokesperson for Parabon told Q13 News each investigation in which police have revealed the sketches to the public, only about 20-percent of their cases have been solved.
Even so, detectives hope the new images can spur new leads in the murder of the Canadian couple.
“It gives us hope that we’ve got a likeness of what this person’s going to look similar to,” said Scharf.
Investigators say the sketches could shed new light on cases that might otherwise forever remain cold.
“When I look at this, it’s that bit of hope that we can have that we’re actually going to be able to develop out of this,” said Sgt. Jennifer Sheahan-Lee from the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation into the murdered Canadian couple will continue to haunt their loved ones until a suspect is brought to justice.
“This was a calculated crime,” said Baanstra. “This wasn’t some random, one-time violent act. This person worked their way up to this.”
There is a $50,000 reward being offered for information in the case, but those funds will only available until the end of the year.
Tips can be shared through an anonymous tip line at 425-388-3845.
Detectives would also like anyone who worked at E.A. Nord door company, in Everett, in 1974 to call the tip line. They could have helpful information based on an old tip detectives received. Leave a name and number and detectives will call you back.