William Earl Talbott II, 55, of SeaTac, is led into court for arraignment in the 1987 death of Tanya Van Cuylenborg at the Skagit County Community Justice Center on Friday in Mount Vernon. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Judge sets bail at $2.5 million in 1987 slaying of B.C. couple

William Talbott II, 55, is charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder

  • Dec. 14, 2018 7:30 a.m.

The issue Thursday was bail: Should it be allowed and, if so, how much?

The prosecution and defense attorneys had stated their arguments.

Before Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Linda Krese ruled, she agreed to listen to one more perspective.

John Van Cuylenborg lost his sister in November 1987. He described Thursday how his parents “were never the same,” and how he continues to be haunted by the thought of his sister’s and her boyfriend’s last hours.

Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, and Jay Cook, 20, of Saanich, British Columbia, disappeared while on a road trip that took them to Seattle.

A week later, Van Cuylenborg’s body was found in the woods off a rural road in Skagit County. She’d been raped and shot in the head. Cook’s body later was found beneath a blanket near a bridge south of Monroe. He’d been beaten and strangled.

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William Talbott II, 55, is charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder. On Thursday, he sat between his two defense attorneys. Nearby, John Van Cuylenborg urged the judge to make sure Talbott wouldn’t get out before his trial, which is set to start in late March.

“I would encourage the court not to reopen the door” for the possibility that another family could suffer similar anguish, he said.

Krese ultimately agreed to allow bail, but she set it at $2.5 million. She said there would be a large risk of the defendant fleeing, given that he faces life in prison if convicted.

Rachel Forde, one of Talbott’s defense attorneys, told the judge that her client has roots in King and Snohomish counties. She asked for $100,000 bail. She provided letters from his friends and acquaintances who vouched for his character, including one Monroe resident who described him as “a very respectful man” with “a heart of gold.” Forde said he would surrender his passport and agree to electronic monitoring. She also said Talbott could have left any time over the past 30 years, but chose to stay.

Deputy prosecutor Matthew Baldock said Talbott would have plenty of reason to run now that he is charged.

“If there is a stronger incentive to flee, I don’t know what it is,” he said.

For three decades, Talbott’s name never made a list of more than 300 potential suspects, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

Then, earlier this year, a new analysis of DNA evidence led a genetic genealogist and cold case detectives to identify him as the suspected killer, by way of second cousins who had uploaded their DNA to public genealogy sites. The cousins were searching for relatives.

When he was arrested, Talbott was living in SeaTac and working as a trucker. In the 1980s, his parents lived six miles from the bridge where Cook’s body was found, according to charging papers.

Eric Stevick, Everett Herald

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