William Earl Talbott II, 55, enters Snohomish County Superior Court, unshackled and in civilian attire, led by defense attorney Rachel Forde on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 in Everett, Wa. Talbott is charged with the aggravated murders of Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, who were on a road trip 30 years ago.(Andy Bronson / The Herald)

William Earl Talbott II, 55, enters Snohomish County Superior Court, unshackled and in civilian attire, led by defense attorney Rachel Forde on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 in Everett, Wa. Talbott is charged with the aggravated murders of Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, who were on a road trip 30 years ago.(Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Man pleads not guilty in 1987 slayings of B.C. couple

William Talbott of SeaTac was arraigned Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court

Keri Coles for Oak Bay News

Caleb Hutton for the Daily Herald

A SeaTac man appeared in a Snohomish County courtroom Tuesday to plead not guilty to the 1987 murders of a young B.C. couple.

As family members of the victims watched, William Earl Talbott II, 55, unshackled and wearing a white dress shirt and blue tie, entered the plea before Superior Court Judge Millie Judge.

Talbott is charged with the aggravated murders of Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya van Cuylenborg, 18. The high school sweethearts were killed 30 years ago during a road trip from their homes near Victoria to Seattle, Washington.

Cold for 30 years, the case had a breakthough last month when DNA samples from the scene where van Cuylenborg was killed led to a first-degree murder charge for Talbott on May 17.

RELATED: Arrest made in 30-year homicide cold case of Oak Bay High grads

Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend Cook hopped on the Coho ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles on Nov.18, 1987, for a quick trip to Seattle. They never came home. Their bodies were found a few days later – van Cuylenborg’s on a rural road in Skagit County, sexually assaulted and shot in the back of the head, Cook’s further south in Snohomish County near High Bridge and Monroe Prison, beaten and strangled.

While the DNA evidence was enough to charge Talbott with van Cuylenborg’s death, detectives continued to gather and process evidence and interview witnesses related to the investigation of Cook’s murder.

Talbott is now charged with both.

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

On Friday, the second count of aggravated first-degree murder was filed against William Talbott II in Snohomish County Superior Court.

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

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 van Cuylenborg and Cook had in mind when they disappeared, according to the charges.

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 style of distinctive bronze Ford Club Wagon that was taken by the killer — at the Talbott home that year, according to the charges.

After the slayings, Van Cuylenborg’s Minolta camera was missing.

Talbott’s friend said they were avid about photography. Earlier in 1987, he and Talbott had driven about six miles from the parents’ home to High Bridge to snap photos. They walked along the river until they reached a vantage point where they could see the Monroe prison. They took a photo. Talbott told him to hang onto the picture.

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

New DNA technology led to a 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 scene. They used data that had been uploaded by distant cousins to public genealogy websites. They pinpointed a suspect – Talbott.

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. Before then, Talbott had never been considered a suspect. Days later he was in handcuffs.

If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Talbott’s next hearing was set for July 18.

With files from Caleb Hutton, reporting from Everett, WA.

READ MORE: DNA privacy questioned in Victoria cold case arrest


 

keri.coles@oakbaynews.com

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

cold casemurder

Just Posted

A search is underway for David Borden in Oyama, since he was last seen Wednesday, June 16. (Contributed)
UPDATE: Missing Lake Country man found

Family thanks Facebook community for sharing photo of missing man

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Kelowna Fire Department. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Abandonded campfire results in Kelowna bushfire

The fire was measured at 20 feet by 20 feet in size and has been deemed not suspicious in nature

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

The BC Ferries’ website is down for the second time in one week from what they say is likely an overwhelming increase in web traffic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Surging web traffic crashes BC Ferries’ site again

Website down for second time this week

The Shuswap River in Enderby draws in people from near and far in the summer months of each year. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
RDNO ends lengthy attempt to bring new boating regulations to Shuswap River

With no consensus among stakeholders or remaining funds, the regional district is moving on

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

John Furlong told the Vancouver Board of Trade on Feb. 20, 2020 that he thinks the city could and should bid for the 2030 Winter Games. (CP photo)
PODCAST: John Furlong lays out a ‘provincial’ B.C. plan to host the 2030 Winter Olympics

Podcast: Chat includes potential role for Vancouver Island communities

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Family homeless after fire rips through Chilliwack house

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

BC Ferries’ newest Island Class vessel is experiencing an issue with one of its thrusters off the Algerian coast. Photo courtesy patbaywebcam.com.
BC Ferries newest vessel having mechanical issues in Mediterranean

Island 4 will be repaired in Spain before crossing Atlantic

Most Read