Same Genealogy Research that Caught Golden State Killer Solves Infamous Washington State Double Murder

Parabon NanoLabs DNA-rendered portrait of suspect

In 1987 someone brutally murdered 20-year-old Jay Cook and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Tanya Van Cuylenborg. The case went cold until this week, when police in Seattle arrested 55-year-old William Earl Talbott II. They reportedly found Talbott using the same methods that led to the capture of the alleged Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo.

The double homicide became famous due to Unsolved Mysteries, which aired a chilling segment about it in October 1989. Cook and Van Cuylenborg traveled from Victoria, Canada on November 18, 1987 to Seattle. They disappeared after boarding a ferry, only to be found miles apart later that month. Tanya was raped, and both were beaten and strangled.

Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Regarding Talbott’s arrest, KOMO quoted Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary, who said crime scene DNA “was used to identify his ancestors which in turn led us to the identification of Talbott.” Just as in the Golden State Killer investigation, investigators used GEDMatch, a self-serve genealogy database to which users can upload raw genetic data in hopes of finding distant relatives.

Cold case detective Jim Scharf from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Dept. reportedly said that “genetic genealogy that was the key tool that got this case resolved.”

“Had law enforcement never had access to genetic genealogy,” said Scharf, “I don’t believe this case would ever be solved.”

After they identified him as a suspect, police reportedly were able to obtain Talbott’s DNA from a cup he’d left in a work vehicle.

Just a week before Talbott’s arrest, I wrote an article for Real Clear Life titled “Eight Cold Cases That Could Be Cracked by DNA and Genealogy.” I listed the Cook-Van Cuylenborg murder. Apparently police were already closing in on their suspect at the time.

So that’s one down out of the eight. Seven more to go.

[KOMO]

Murdered Teacher Rachael DelTondo’s Death Called a ‘Crime of Passion’

Rachael DelTondo (KDKA)

The murder of teacher Rachael DelTondo wasn’t random, it was a “crime of passion.” That’s what investigators say—DelTondo likely knew the killer who pumped six rounds into her chest on May 13. CBS Pittsburgh quoted Beaver County DA David Lozier, who said investigators “could not be taking this more seriously.” Detectives are interviewing neighbors and studying any available surveillance and reportedly trying to crack her cell phone. While Lozier emphasized to the press that police are certain she knew her killer, he said nothing about a suspect.

In 2016 police spoke with DelTondo after finding her with an underage student. Lozier indicated that the incident has been completely mischaracterized and that she shouldn’t have been suspended from her job at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. He said it was “shameful” that DelTondo “was painted with a police report that had been written that did not result in criminal charges.” He then said she was the victim of “a personal vendetta against her at the time.” Of course, that leaves a huge question dangling over what the public knows about the case so far: Whose vendetta? It would be interesting to know if the fiance who broke up with DelTondo after she was found with the student had any connection to Aliquippa police.

Source: [CBS Pittsburgh]

Murdered PA Teacher Was Suspended From Job Over Info Allegedly Leaked By Police

Rachael DelTondo, KDKA screengrab

This is strange. A teacher in Aliquippa, PA was shot six times in her driveway Sunday night. Rachael DelTondo had just come home from an ice cream shop, CBS reports, when someone opened fire, six shots to the chest. Here’s why it’s so strange: DelTondo was involved in at least two controversies, including one linked to the Aliquippa Police. In 2017, CBS Pittsburgh reported on a beef she had regarding a wedding dress. She later broke up with her fiance. CBS reports that after the breakup, someone leaked info known only to the Aliquippa PD regarding some kind of past relationship between DelTondo and an (ex?) student. She was suspended from her teaching job and Pennsylvania State Police launched an investigation into Aliquippa police. To state the obvious: no way this was a random homicide.

Source: [CBS]

A Look at 8 Cold Cases that Could Be Solved by DNA and Genealogy

My latest for Real Clear Life, about unsolved murders that might be ripe for the same kind of investigation that nabbed the alleged Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo. There is some understandable controversy about using public genealogy sites to find matches to an unknown suspect’s DNA, yet it’s hard to resist the idea that this is a new route to solving previously unsolvable cases. I include the Zodiac Killer as well as JonBenet Ramsey.

First, The Golden State Killer—Is the Zodiac Killer Next?

Code from the Zodiac

A release distributed by ZodiacKiller.com Wednesday night revealed the inevitable: Investigators in northern California are on the road to seeking a familial DNA match to the mysterious serial killer. The release stated that even after “50 years, the Vallejo (Calif.) Police Dept. is still actively pursuing the Zodiac killer, including through all available forensic resources. DNA testing is underway and the results should be available in June 2018.”

With up-to-date DNA testing, investigators hope they can “glean a full genetic profile of the Zodiac that can be used in an Ancestry-type database.” This is inevitable because it’s exactly how investigators nailed the alleged Golden State Killer (GSK), Joseph James DeAngelo. He was arrested on April 24th, after he was fingered through extensive research into related DNA.

Zodiac Killer suspect sketches

Evidence from the Zodiac undergoing new tests includes the envelopes he used to send his codes to San Francisco media as well as the stamps on those envelopes. As the Zodiac Killer site’s release states, “they were originally tested about 10 years ago and approx. 25% of each stamp and a small portion of the adhesive area of each envelope were used for testing.”

Those tests yielded only marginally useful genetic material. It was compared to the DNA of Arthur Leigh Allen—the most famous Zodiac suspect—and didn’t match.

The ZodiacKiller.com release noted that there is a wealth of evidence police will be able to test “with the new equipment, which can apparently separate DNA from the old glue found on stamps and envelopes, and thus yield better results.”

GSK was arrested the same week Oklahoma police arrested a suspect in the mysterious 1999 disappearance of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman. The day police took Joseph James DeAngelo into custody I joked that it’d be great if the universe pulled a hat trick and revealed the Zodiac’s real identity.

It didn’t happen, but who knows, we may be on our way.

[ZodiacKiller.com]

Heads of Two Redheaded Women Found 150 Miles Apart

Houston PD

One was found on Lake Houston. The other close to Calcasieu Lake. Two locations, 150 miles, the heads of two redheaded women. The Houston Chronicle reported they had good teeth and their heads were in plastic bags. Perhaps stranger still, the heads reportedly weren’t far from RV parks. The women were around the same age, as well. One woman’s hair was dyed, as she had dark roots. Forensic examination determined she may have been hispanic. An official said the Louisiana head was “real similar.” Police already have an unknown person of interest: a young man driving a blue-green Chevy Silverado. It’s just too soon to say it’s the beginning of a trail of heads spreading across several states. Perhaps these women were targeted for something unrelated to similar appearance. But it’s still horrific, and strange.

[Chron.com]

DNA and the Golden State Killer

GSK composite; Joseph DeAngelo

The Golden State Killer—Joseph James DeAngelo—was caught after police matched him to a partial profile on GEDMatch. That’s a site that allows users to voluntarily upload their raw DNA data from sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe.com. Essentially, some relative of DeAngelo’s was looking for further distant family connections and inadvertently outed him as one of the most vicious serial killers in California history. I am among the many who have had mixed feelings about this. I don’t have any mixed feelings about DeAngelo being put away for life. I enjoy thinking about that, and thinking about him as an old man suffering behind bars. I wish Michelle McNamara was here to see it, too. But I do get the privacy concerns. And I don’t know what to say about it. The part of me that’s been covering crime for years loves the idea that many more cold cases could be solved this way. My inner civil libertarian quails when thinking about how badly police could abuse this method of investigation. Until the public can be assured that police will use this kind of thing wisely, I won’t really know what to say about it. It’s a brave new world kind of thing, and there are always unknown challenges in that world.