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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Update: The suspect is Joseph James DeAngelo, a one-time cop and Navy vet. A photo of the younger DeAngelo strongly resembles suspect sketches (see above). He’s currently booked in a Sacramento County Jail on murder charges.
Original post: Fox40 reports that the Sacramento County (CA) Sheriff’s Dept. has had a “significant break” regarding the Golden State Killer. A significant break means an arrest, and I’m aware of rumors that the suspect was targeted after a DNA hit. Remember: the Golden State Killer may have killed as many as 12, and committed dozens of rapes and burglaries. I began crime-blogging anew after Michelle McNamara, author of I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK—the definitive book about the case—passed away. We were friends, but really, I was a fan. Michelle did this, in a way. She pulled this terrifying monster’s crimes out of the dark. I wish she were here to see it. More information will be out later in the day, including a press conference at noon Pacific Time.
Before his execution, serial killer Anthony Shore told investigators from the Texas Rangers about crimes he’d committed when he was a teen living near Sacramento in the 1970s—crimes he said were inspired by the rapist and murderer now known as the Golden State Killer. The Houston Chronicle reports Shore “admitted to participating in another serial crime, as a copycat of the East Area Rapist, a Sacramento-area criminal active in the late 70s and early 80s.” He claimed he began with groping women on bike trails. The Rangers report indicated he progressed to truly terrifying assaults. Via the Chronicle, a quote from the Rangers gives some idea of the horrific acts to which Shore confessed. He said he bound a couple, then “made the man ‘watch’ as he sexually assaulted the woman.”
Shore was called the “Tourniquet Killer” and targeted women in and around Houston during the 80s and 90s. He was convicted of killing four. He was put to death on January 18, 2018.