Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office detective Jim Scharf is interviewed by “60 Minutes” about how genetic genealogy solved a 31-year-old double-murder cold case. (CBS)

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office detective Jim Scharf is interviewed by “60 Minutes” about how genetic genealogy solved a 31-year-old double-murder cold case. (CBS)

B.C. cold case helps ‘60 Minutes’ explain genetic genealogy

An arrest in the 1987 double-murder of two people from Victoria was one of three examples highlighted in a segment you can watch here

– By Eric Stevick, Everett Herald

A local 31-year-old cold case was highlighted Sunday on the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” during a segment exploring a new crime-solving tool that combines DNA analysis and family genealogy.

The episode was reported by Steve Kroft, a long-time correspondent for the half-century-old program.

It described how the research technique led to the arrest of a 72-year-old suspect earlier this year in the so-called “Golden Gate Killer” case. Police in California believe a serial killer is responsible for 13 murders, more than 50 rapes and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 to 1986.

READ MORE: DNA sheds new light on 30-year-old B.C. murder mystery

The “60 Minutes” story explained how a detective submitted the unidentified killer’s DNA to a public database called GEDmatch, which is used by genealogy enthusiasts who voluntarily provide DNA to research family history.

The idea, detective Paul Holes told “60 Minutes,” was this: “If we can’t find him, can we find somebody related to him? And then work our way back to him? And so ultimately, that’s what we did.”

Detectives in Snohomish and Skagit counties did the same thing with the help of CeCe Moore, lead genealogist for Parabon NanoLabs, a small DNA technology company in Reston, Virginia.

READ MORE: Police hope new tools will help solve 30-year-old murder

And that led “60 Minutes” producer Michael Karzis to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in Everett earlier this month for an interview with cold-case detective Jim Scharf. Scharf had been looking for a breakthrough in the homicides of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, a young Canadian couple killed in 1987 while on a road trip to Seattle from their hometown of Saanich, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island.

Van Cuylenborg’s body was found off a road near Alger in Skagit County. She had been sexually assaulted, shot in the head and dumped in the woods. She was 18.

The body of Cook, 20, was discovered beneath a blanket near a bridge south of Monroe. He appeared to have been beaten with rocks and strangled.

Earlier this year, Scharf got “the tip of a lifetime to solve this case,” he told “60 Minutes.”

READ MORE: DNA sketch aims to crack cold case of Oak Bay High grads

A new analysis of DNA evidence led Moore and cold case detectives to identify the suspected killer, by way of second cousins who had uploaded their DNA to public genealogy sites. The cousins were searching for relatives. Detectives arrested one of those relatives, William Earl Talbott II, on a murder warrant in May.

Talbott was the only male carrier of the DNA mix from the two families that could match the DNA found at the homicide scenes.

Scharf said Monday that “60 Minutes” did a good job of describing the technology and practical applications for a national audience.

READ MORE: Arrest made in 30-year homicide of Oak Bay High grads

In the segment, the detective recalled getting the call about the DNA link.

“And she told me that we had a match to the suspect that killed Tanya and Jay. And it brought tears to my eyes. And then I screamed. ‘Yeah!’ You know, ‘We got him!’”

Scharf watched “60 Minutes” on Sunday night with his wife and son.

He was particularly interested in the interview with Moore. She is someone he’s worked with from afar but has not met in person.

“You could see how she really cares about what she is doing to help the victims and their families,” he said.

Talbott, a trucker who grew up in Woodinville, is charged with two counts of aggravated murder.

Talbott’s parents lived six miles from the bridge where Cook was found, a straight-shot of a drive with only one turn, according to charging papers.

READ MORE: DNA privacy questioned in Victoria cold case arrest

Talbott’s name never made a list of more than 300 potential suspects, according to the sheriff’s office. If convicted, Talbott, 55, faces life in prison. His trial is set for March 26 .

More from Sunday’s episode of ’60 Minutes’

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Esa Carriere was stabbed to death during Canada Day celebrations in downtown Kelowna in 2018. (Contributed)
Emotional testimony from accused Kelowna Canada Day killer’s friend in manslaughter trial

‘I confronted him, and he admitted to me that he stabbed someone,’ says accused killer’s former housemate

Basketball hoop (Pixabay.com)
Peachland to only allow West Kelowna sports teams at local facilities

The decision is to help keep the community safe during the pandemic

Photo courtesy RCMP
Visitors at the farm in 2019. (Arion Therapeutic Farm - Facebook)
Kelowna therapy farm finds new home

Arion Therapeutic Farm will be moving in late spring

Classroom chairs (Pixabay photo)
COVID-19 exposure announced at Lake Country school

SD 23 announced the exposure at George Elliot Secondary over the weekend

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 vaccination set to start for B.C. seniors aged 80-plus

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Okanagan Falls fire department put on an ice rescue course at Yellow Lake this weekend.
South Okanagan firefighters submerged in the icy waters of Yellow Lake

The local firefighters were taking ice rescue training at the Penticton lake this weekend

Salmon Arm RCMP officers seized a handgun and a quantity of cocaine during a search of a vehicle on Thursday, Feb. 11. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP seize handgun, cocaine in vehicle search

Two Surrey residents released from custody, investigation continues

Lumby’s WTF What the Fry was broken into Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, and the till was stolen around 9:30 a.m. (Facebook)
Cash box stolen from Lumby poutinerie

WTF broken into in broad daylight seven weeks after grand opening

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District has received a grant for the completion of housing reports for Electoral Areas B, D, and F. (Gerry Leibel photo)
Grant allows Columbia Shuswap Regional District to finish housing reports

Study toidentify issues such as affordability and accessibility specific to Areas B, D and F

KISU swim club member Justin Fotherby is one of six swimmers from across Canada to be recognized for the 2020-2021 Victor Davis Award. (Submitted photo)
Penticton swimmer wins major awards, closing in on Olympic dream

Justin Fotherby, a KISU club member, has just won the prestigious Victor Davis Award

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read