June 11, 2019 5:26 pm
Updated: June 14, 2019 10:10 pm

Trial set to begin in decades-old murder of B.C. couple

WATCH: Jury selection begins Tuesday in the trial of the man accused of killing a B.C. couple in Washington State in 1987. Kylie Stanton reports.

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When John Van Cuylenborg remembers his sister, he likes to think of her as a smiling teen hugging the family dog or in her high school graduation robes.

The other choice is to recall the horrific circumstances surrounding her unsolved rape and murder.

“You know, for the most part, it was just this open question,” John said.

WATCH: (Aired May 18, 2018) Washington cold case arrest: family reaction

The bodies of 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg and her 20-year-old boyfriend Jay Cook were found in Washington state in November 1987.

The couple had left Victoria bound for Seattle and investigators believe they may have picked up a hitchhiker. Several days later, Van Cuylenborg’s body was found in a ditch. She had been raped and shot in the head. Cook’s body was found under a bridge two days later.

At the time, Van Cuylenborg ‘s father Bill said: “They were both of a nature where they thought the world was good. They trusted everyone.”

READ MORE: Man arrested in 30-year-old cold-case murders of young B.C. couple

For three decades, there were barely any leads.

Last April, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office released composite sketches of the suspect, based solely on the DNA left at the crime scene.

WATCH: William Talbott makes court appearance in 30-year-old cold case

A month later, using genetic genealogy from entries on the website GED Match, a suspect was identified. William Earl Talbott was arrested on May 17, 2018, in Seattle and charged with the couple’s murders.

WATCH: William Talbott makes court appearance in 30-year-old cold case


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“Having someone charged sort of brought home the reality that people were continuing to make best efforts and continuing to try to solve this,” John Van Cuylenborg said.

“It provides some measure of closure that we’re able to provide some amount of justice to this case.”

It remains unclear what other evidence prosecutors may provide to link Talbott to the crime.

READ MORE: 30 years after a young B.C. couple was killed, new DNA tech could crack the case

Van Cuylenborg says he hopes the case serves as an example of how “even after so many decades and so much time, these cases can still be solved.”

Jury selection begins on Tuesday, with opening statements set for Thursday and the trial expected to continue for four weeks.

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