Police have once against solved a cold case using DNA and a genealogy website, just weeks after the person believed to be the Golden State Killer was caught using the same tactic.
The suspect is 55-year-old truck driver William Earl Talbott II, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
The victims – 20-year-old Jay Cook and 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg – drove from British Columbia to the Seattle area on November 18, 1987, in a van. They were supposed to return the following day, but when they failed to show up, police were notified.
Van Cuylenborg’s body was discovered on November 24 in a rural ditch. Investigators say she was raped and also shot. Two days later, Cook’s body was located more than 50 miles away under a blanket. Evidence indicated that he died after being beaten and strangled.
The company Parabon NonLabs inputted DNA samples from 100 crime scenes into a database and found matches with people likely to be the third cousin or closer of a suspect in at least 20 cases.
In the Talbott case, DNA from the scene of Van Cuylenborg’s murder provided genealogical matches from around the second cousin level.
A genealogist later determined that family trees pointed to a couple who had just one son – Talbott – whose DNA matched the crime scene sample.
Police are still trying to figure out why Talbott killed the couple and how he encountered them.
Anyone who knew Talbott or saw him around the time of the killings should call investigators at 425-388-3845.
For the victims’ families, the capture of the suspected killer was good news.
“Detective work has sure come a long way in 30 years,” Cook’s sister, Laura Baanstra, said.
“It’s a sense of some justice that’s starting to happen here,” John Van Cuylenborg, Tanya’s brother, said.