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.
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.