Canadians' Killer: New DNA Tech Cracks Cold Case
Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, hopped into Jay’s van, and drove away from Saanich, British Columbia, Nov. 18, 1987, for a vacation in the state of Washington. It would be the last time the young Canadian couple’s families would see them alive.
Jay and Tanya purchased a ferry ticket to Seattle. Their bodies would be discovered only a couple of weeks later in the state of Washington.
Tanya’s body was found first. Police discovered her corpse, Nov. 24, in a ditch in Skagit County, Washington. She had been brutally murdered and raped. Jay’s body and the van were found a few days later in two separate locations.
Thirty years later, the case still under investigation, Snohomish County investigators contacted Parabon NanoLabs in Reston, Virginia in 2017. Parabon is a company that provides DNA phenotyping services to law enforcement agencies.
Parabon’ s Snapshot DNA Phenotyping Service creates composite sketches based on DNA samples and proprietary algorithms to make the pictures.
Snohomish County detectives had pristine DNA that was preserved from the scene where Tanya’s body had been discovered. They used Parabon’s Snapshot DNA Phenotyping Service to create a composite sketch of the person who killed her.
Detectives released the drawings in April 2018. Close to 100 tips came in from people who thought they recognized the picture of the man suspected of killing Tanya, but nothing came of the leads.
Detectives went back to Parabon for more help.
This time they turned to another new technology known as GEDMatch, the same database used to crack the decades-old, Golden State Killer case, only a couple of months before.
Investigators fed DNA that had been collected from Tanya’s body and the murder scene into GEDMatch.
They got a hit.
Investigators had their first solid lead in three decades. GEDMatch linked DNA, extracted from semen found near Tanya’s body to a couple of second cousins whose DNA was on the website.
The New York Times reported that from there, a genetic genealogist constructed a map, or family tree, that led to a suspected killer. CeCe Moore used readily available family data, obituaries, newspaper clippings and information from social media sites.
Moore said she then used “reverse genealogy” to take her closer to a murder suspect.
“This led me to two descendants of the great-grandparents of the original matches who married, thus tying the two families together,” she told the Times.
But they were still a generation away from finding the killer.
However, the couple that tied the two families together only had one son, a 55-year-old truck driver, William Earl Talbott II.
Finally, after thirty years, detectives had a solid lead — and more than just a clue — they had a name to go on. But, more evidence was needed.
Now, it was time for a return to old-fashioned police work. Detectives followed Talbott, watching him closely for several days before they got what would turn out to be a monumental break.
Talbott threw away a cup he’d been drinking from. That was just that detectives needed. Talbott’s DNA had to be on that cup.
It was. It matched.
As soon as they got the results of the positive DNA test, detectives handcuffed Talbott and walked him into court. He was charged with the November 1987 murder and rape of Tanya Van Cuylenborg.
“We never gave up hope that we would find Jay and Tanya’s killer,” said Ty Trenary, the Snohomish County sheriff.
Talbott pled not guilty, May 18, 2018. Bail was set at $2 million.
"What an amazing world we live in today,” said Laura Baanstra, Tanya Van Cuylenborg's sister. “Science and good old-fashioned police work are making it harder and harder for these disturbed individuals to hide in the shadows.”
The Coffee Shoppe Killer: Inspired by a Shocking True Crime Story is 100 % True Crime! Some characters, dialogue and settings are fictionalized, but this Shocking True Crime really happened!