William Earl Talbott II, 55, of SeaTac, is led into court for arraignment in the 1987 death of Tanya Van Cuylenborg at the Skagit County Community Justice Center on Friday in Mount Vernon. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Washington State man facing murder charges in 1987 killing of B.C. couple

Two counts of aggravated first-degree murder filed against William Talbott II in Snohomish

By Caleb Hutton, reporting from Everett, WA.

A Washington State truck driver has been charged in the 1987 deaths of a Saanich couple, one month after new DNA technology led to the man’s arrest.

Two counts of aggravated first-degree murder were filed against William Talbott II Friday in Snohomish County Superior Court.

In April, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office released digital sketches of the suspect’s face created through phenotyping, a technology that can estimate a person’s appearance based on DNA.

Talbott was arrested last month, after detectives were given dozens of leads. At that time he was charged for the alleged murder of Tanya Van Cuylenborg.

Since then, former friends of Talbott have come forward to say they knew him when he was a delivery driver in Seattle in 1987. One of Talbott’s routes at the time went along Sixth Avenue S. in SoDo — a destination Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, and Jay Cook, 20, had in mind when they disappeared on a trip from Saanich, B.C., according to the charges.

A week later, a man collecting aluminum cans found the body of Van Cuylenborg in woods off a rural road south of Alger in Skagit County. The date was Nov. 24, 1987.

She had been shot “execution style” in the back of the head, wrote Craig Matheson, Snohomish County’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor. Forensic analysis showed the muzzle of the gun was less than two inches away when fired.

There was evidence she’d been raped. Investigators say that evidence provides a direct link to Talbott.

Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, of Vancouver Island, were found slain in Washington in 1987.

A spent .380-caliber shell casing was found near the body, along with zip ties that had been fastened to form apparent bindings.

An autopsy listed Van Cuylenborg’s date of death as Nov. 19, the day after the couple’s ferry was supposed to arrive in Seattle.

READ MORE: DNA privacy questioned in Victoria cold case arrest

Cook was beaten with rocks and strangled. His body was found Nov. 26, 1987, near the High Bridge south of Monroe. Zip ties were nearby.

“From all available information, these acts of violence were as random as they were savage,” Matheson wrote in the charges.

Talbott was 24-years-old at the time of the alleged crime and is believed to have lived in the Woodinville area of Washington State in 1987. His parents’ home was approximately 10 km from where Cook’s body was found.

Police look to former friends of Talbott for information

The deaths remained a mystery for more than 30 years, until DNA led to a major breakthrough. A genealogist, CeCe Moore, worked with experts at Parabon NanoLabs to build a family tree for the suspect, based on the genetic evidence recovered from the crime scenes. They used data that had been uploaded by distant cousins to public genealogy websites. They pinpointed a suspect, Talbott, a trucker living north of Sea-Tac International Airport.

Police kept him under surveillance until a paper cup fell from his truck in Seattle in early May. A swab of DNA from the cup came back as a match to the evidence that had waited 30 years. Before then, Talbott had never been considered a suspect. Days later he was in handcuffs.

Talbott faces life in prison if convicted.

The arrest made international news, and investigators asked others who knew Talbott to come forward — to help piece together a profile of the suspect and his activities in the 1980s.

Another friend had been a roommate in 1987, until Talbott lost his job and moved back to his parents’ home off Woodinville-Duvall Road. The man recalled seeing a van — the same distinctive bronze Ford Club Wagon that was taken by the killer — at the Talbott home that year, according to the charges.

After the slayings, the van was found in Bellingham, but Van Cuylenborg’s Minolta camera was missing.

The man shared other memories.

Earlier that year, he recounted, he and Talbott had driven about six miles from the parents’ home to the High Bridge to snap photos. They were avid about photography. They walked along the river until they reached a vantage point where they could see the Monroe prison, according to the charges. They took a photo. Talbott told him to hang onto the picture. So he did.

He kept it for more than 30 years. This year he dug it out and handed it over to a detective.

Keri Coles of Oak Bay News and Rikki King of Herald Net contirbuted to this report.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

The struggle for space inside Surrey’s elementary schools

SECOND IN A SERIES: A look at how overcrowding impacts student life

VIDEO: 5X Festival takes over Surrey’s Central City plaza

Second annual event draws thousands of people throughout the day

City shifts proposed transit station to King George after cancellation of LRT

Council to consider Newton Town Centre plan in fall

VIDEO: Plane makes forced landing on Highway 17 in Surrey

Police say no one was injured and no damage to aircraft or vehicles

Nearly 200 motorcycles take off from Cloverdale for Brenden’s Ride

Annual fundraiser supports programs that empower people with disabilities

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Pride flag taken down by Township of Langley

Woman said she was told it was removed from her front yard because of a complaint

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Most Read