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SeaTac man arrested for 1987 murders of Canadian couple traveling to Seattle

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EVERETT, Wash. – An arrest has been made in the murders of 20-year-old Jay Cook and 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg, more than 30 years after the young couple’s bodies were found in Snohomish and Skagit counties.

SeaTac’s William Earl Talbott II, 55, was booked into Snohomish County Jail on one count of first-degree murder in Van Cylenborg’s death, and detectives are processing evidence and interviewing witnesses in Cook’s death.

On Friday, Talbott pleaded not guilty in Skagit County Superior Court to charges in connection with Van Cuylenborg's murder. Bail was set at $2 million; his next court appearance is set for June 16.

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“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.”

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Just last month, detectives said they'd received more than 90 tips after a $50,000 reward was offered and new sketches were released in the case.

Detectives believe Talbot lived in Woodinville at the time of the murders, about seven miles from where Cook’s body was found.

Talbott was identified through the use of genetic genealogy, which combines the use of DNA testing with genealogy to establish a relationship between a person and their ancestors. DNA from the case was run against the public genetic genealogy website GEDmatch, and close matches were made to two of Talbott’s relatives.

Police then gathered Talbott’s DNA from an abandoned cup he’d used, and the Washington State Patrol positively matched it to DNA found at the crime scene.

Cook and Van Cylenborg had driven a van down from Saanich, B.C., to pick up a part for Cook’s father in Seattle. The last time their whereabouts were known was when they bought a ticket in Bremerton at 10:16 p.m.  on Nov. 18, 1987, to take the ferry to Seattle.

On Nov. 24, Van Cuylenborg’s partially clothed body was found in a Skagit County ditch. Cook’s van was found the next day in a parking lot in Bellingham, and his body was found in Snohomish County along Crescent Lake Road the day after that.

Detectives are still asking for the public’s help with specific information:

  • If you knew Talbott in 1987 or 1988.
  • If you saw Talbott with Cook’s brown Ford van.
  • If you saw Talbott with a 35mm Minolta camera that Van Cylenborg had with her.
  • If you know anything connecting Talbott to a light blue blanket, or even know where that type of blanket might’ve come from.

If you have tips of any kind in the case, call the Snohomish County sheriff’s office tip line at (425) 388-3845.

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