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Washington man handed 2 life sentences for killing B.C. couple in 1987

William Talbott II, left, was found guilty of the murder of a Canadian couple in 1987 on June 28, 2019.
William Talbott II, left, was found guilty of the murder of a Canadian couple in 1987 on June 28, 2019. Olivia Vanni/The Herald via AP

The man convicted of killing a young B.C. couple in Washington state more than 30 years ago has been handed two life sentences without parole.

William Earl Talbott II was sentenced Wednesday in Everett, Wash., nearly a month after he became the first person ever to be convicted of a crime through genealogy research.

The sentences, which are to be served consecutively, marks the end of a decades-long search for the person responsible for murdering 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg and 20-year-old Jay Cook.

WATCH: (Aired June 28) Guilty verdict in 32-year-old murder case

Guilty verdict in 32-year-old murder case
Guilty verdict in 32-year-old murder case

The victims’ family members who attended the hearing reacted with soft smiles and hugs as the sentence was handed down.

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The Saanich couple were travelling to Seattle for an overnight trip in November 1987 when they disappeared.

Days later, their bodies were found in two different rural areas of Washington state. Their van was found in Bellingham, Wash., with Van Cuylenborg’s pants inside.

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

DNA found on those pants was tested by genealogists using the public database GEDmatch, which helped find relatives of the suspect.

Those results led investigators to Talbott, who investigators said lived close to where Cook’s body was found at the time of the murders and would have been 24 years old.

Further DNA matches were found while surveilling the now-56-year-old truck driver in the days before his arrest.

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

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A lab report unsealed after a jury found Talbott guilty on June 28 shows investigators found more of his DNA on zip ties discovered at one of the crime scenes.

The two counts of aggravated first-degree murder, to which Talbott pleaded not guilty, carried only one possible sentence of life in prison.

At Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Talbott maintained his innocence while addressing the court for the first time since his arrest.

WATCH: Washington man found guilty for 1987 murder of 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

“I’m convicted of a crime I didn’t commit,” he said.

“The level of violence in this is something that I cannot comprehend,” Talbott continued. “I’ve gone all my life as a very passive person.”

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Before the sentence was handed down, Talbott’s lawyers filed a motion for a new trial, which Superior Court Judge Linda Krese denied.

The defence argued the evidence presented at trial left open the possibility that the two crime scenes where Van Cuylenborg and Cook were found were not connected, which Krese disagreed with.

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

 

 

The technology used to arrest and convict Talbott has since been used to bring arrests and charges in dozens of cases over the past year, including a California man charged in the Golden State Killer case.

Van Cuylenborg’s older brother John said he views the technology as not only a great way to solve cases, but as a strong deterrent.

WATCH: (Aired June 10) 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

“Society really owes an obligation to these kids, and to itself, to make use of this tool,” he said.

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“We’d be very much the worse off if we don’t take the opportunity to use this technology to make our society a safer place for everyone.”

—With files from KIRO News and the Associated Press