A man has been arrested in the 30-year-old cold case of a young B.C. couple in Washington State.
Fifty-five-year-old William Talbott of Seatac was arrested in Seattle on Thursday.
He has been booked into the Snohomish County jail on one count of first degree murder for the killing of Tanya Van Cuylenborg, based on a warrant out of Skagit County.
Detectives continue to gather and process evidence and interview witnesses related to the investigation of Cook’s murder.
Speaking with guest host Mike Smyth on CKNW’s The Lynda Steele Show, Van Cuylenborg’s brother John said he had almost given up hope this day would come.
“After a while you have to sort of adjust to the fact that it seems as though the case is never going to be solved, and that probably would be true if it wasn’t for these advancements in DNA techniques,” he said.
“So that’s the amazing part to the story.”
WATCH: William Talbott makes court appearance in 30-year-old cold case
In November 1987, 18-year-old Van Cuylenborg and 20-year-old Jay Cook were murdered on a trip to Washington state.
Van Cuylenborg and Cook each lived with their parents in Victoria.
On Nov. 18, 1987, the high school sweethearts decided to visit Seattle on an overnight trip.
They took the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Wash., and drove down the Olympic Peninsula in a van. Investigators know they stopped to get gas at a business called Ben’s Deli. Receipts then show they took another ferry from Bremerton to Seattle.
However, investigators do not know what happened next.
On Nov. 24, 1987, Van Cuylenborg’s body was discovered in a ditch 20 kilometres south of Bellingham, Wash. She had been sexually assaulted and shot.
One day later her wallet and keys were found behind a Bellingham tavern and the van was found next to the Greyhound bus station.
On Nov. 26, 1987, Cook’s body was found under a bridge near Monroe, Wash. He had been beaten and strangled.
“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.”
DNA found at the scenes match Talbott, the Snohomish sheriff’s office said Friday.
WATCH: What is the DNA process for solving cold case crimes?
In April,by Parabon DNA, based solely on the DNA left at the crime scene, to show what detectives believe the suspect looks like.
Authorities say it’s not a picture, but rather a composite sketch. The way a profile is built is by using DNA code to predict a person’s appearance. The technology cannot predict traits like hair and weight.
“It still was a bit of a longshot, but it still was more of a development than we’d had in many a year,” said van Cuylenborg’s brother.
“So it did raise our hopes but it didn’t really get us to the point of thinking we’d be here today and the developments we’ve had.”
Talbott was identified as a suspect through the use of genetic genealogy, which is the use of DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between an individual and their ancestors.
This is the first arrest of a murder suspect using results from Parabon’s genetic genealogy service, which became generally available less than two weeks ago.
“After 31 years, we are one step closer to justice,” said Skagit County Sheriff Will Reichardt. “We would not be here without the persistence of detectives in our office, and in Snohomish County, and without the invaluable support from Parabon.”
Detectives are still hoping for some help with the case, however.
They 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 35 millimetre 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, Ore., 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.