British Columbia

Trial begins for Washington state man accused in 1987 murders of B.C. couple

Saanich teenagers Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook were killed in Washington state in 1987.

'It really added to the grief and difficulty of dealing with it,' brother says of long wait for justice

Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg of Saanich, B.C., were killed in Washington state in 1987. (Crime Stoppers)

It's been a difficult three-decade wait for justice for John Van Cuylenborg.

His 18-year-old sister Tanya Van Cuylenborg and her 20-year-old boyfriend Jay Cook were killed while visiting Washington state in 1987.  Jury selection is now underway for the trial of their accused killer.

"Nothing is going to bring the kids back, so you are never really going to get any sort of healing in that sense,"  Van Cuylenborg told Gregor Craigie of CBC Radio's On The Island.

"But it really added to the grief and difficulty of dealing with it." 

For 31 years there were no major breaks in the investigation into the deaths of the young couple from Saanich, B.C.

Then, last year police in Washington state announced they had made an arrest based on new DNA technology that helped identify a suspect.

John Van Cuylenborg says the technology that cracked his sister's cold case should now be widely used in Canada to help families of victims find closure. (Chris Corday/CBC)

William Earl Talbott II, a 56-year-old truck driver from Washington state, is facing two counts of murder in connection with the deaths of Van Cuylenborg and Cook.

He has pleaded not guilty.

The trial is one step toward closure for the families who have been left to grieve their loved ones without answers for decades, said Van Cuylenborg, who plans to travel to the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Wash., from his home in Victoria.

"It's the commitment to the family and to myself to see this through to the end," he said.

In November 1987, Cook and Van Cuylenborg took a ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Wash., on what was supposed to be an overnight trip to Seattle.

William Earl Talbott II is facing two murder charges in connection with the deaths. Hi trial in Everett, Wash., begins this week. (Charles Biles/Associated Press)

A week after the couple vanished, Van Cuylenborg's body was discovered in a ditch 20 kilometres south of Bellingham, Wash. Police said she had been raped and shot in the head.

Cook's body was discovered under a bridge in Monroe, Wash., a couple of days later. He had been beaten and strangled.

Opening arguments are expected to begin Thursday and the trial is expected to last at least three weeks.

-with files from Karin Larsen


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