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

Click to play video 'Guilty verdict in 32-year-old murder case' Guilty verdict in 32-year-old murder case
WATCH: More than three decades after they were murdered, the killer of B.C. couple Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook has been convicted in Washington state. Rumina Daya reports.

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 genetic 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.

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WATCH: Washington man found guilty for 1987 murder of B.C. couple

Click to play video 'Washington man found guilty of 1987 murder of young B.C. couple' Washington man found guilty of 1987 murder of young B.C. couple
Washington man found guilty of 1987 murder of young B.C. couple

As the verdict was read by the judge, Talbott could be heard muttering, “I didn’t do it,” his breath shaky as his lawyers comforted him.

The families of the victims, 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg and 20-year-old Jay Cook, exchanged long hugs as they celebrated the decision.

READ MORE: Washington state jury weighing case of young B.C. couple killed in 1987

Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend Cook disappeared after leaving their home in Saanich for a road trip to Seattle on Nov. 18, 1987.

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.

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WATCH (June 10, 2019): Trial begins in decades-old murder of B.C. couple

Click to play video 'Trial begins in decades-old murder of B.C. couple' Trial begins in decades-old murder of B.C. couple
Trial begins in decades-old murder of B.C. couple

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

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.

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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.

READ MORE: Opening statements heard in case of young B.C. couple killed outside Seattle in 1987

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.

Van Cuylenborg’s brother John said he was relieved to hear the verdict, despite there still being unanswered questions.

“It feels great to have some answers,” he said outside the courthouse. “As we all know from the trial we don’t have all the answers, but we have a lot more than we had for 31 years. So definitely great steps forward here.”

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—With files from KIRO News and the Associated Press