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

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

Just Posted

City council voted down an proposed amendment to the zoning bylaw that would have allowed a cannabis retail store to be constructed between the Last Call Liquor Store and Grizzly Pub. (Photo via Google Maps)
Revelstoke city council rejects fifth cannabis retail store

Council votes down an amendment to the zoning bylaw that would have allowed for the project

Lucas Meyers will be performing his one-man show Revelstoke Project on Nov. 28 via live-stream. (Submitted/Arts Revelstoke)
Upcoming shows cancelled at Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre

The Revelstoke Project will still be live-streamed on Nov. 28

Business district is pictured during a traffic jam in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
Morning Start: By 2050, 95 percent of North Jakarta could be submerged

Your morning start for Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

Jenn and Josh McLafferty, Owners of Monashee Spirits, which distills a variety of vodka, gin, brandy, whiskey and liqueurs. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
UPDATE: Three more Revelstoke businesses close due to COVID-19 exposure

Ray’s Butcher shop, Monashee Distillery and La Baguette each had a staff member test positive

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

A Shuswap couple reported having fallen victim to a family emergency telephone scam. (File image)
Shuswap couple fall victim to family emergency scam

Person claiming to be couple’s son said he was injured and in jail

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
Abbotsford mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

The Vernon Aquatic Centre will be closed for its annual three-week maintenance period from Aug. 26 to Sept. 16. (City of Vernon - photo)
Chlorine leak closes North Okanagan pool

18 swimmers evacuated, pool opens shortly after

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Report of gunfire leads RCMP to men barricaded in North Shuswap home

Chase RCMP said investigation related to firearms offences is ongoing

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

The Vernon Public Art Gallery is looking to the community to support its programming, which VantageOne Credit Union is matching for Giving Tuesday. (VPAG image)
Vernon art gallery gets a boost for Giving Tuesday

VantageOne Credit Union matching donations

Most Read