British Columbia

Washington state man guilty of killing young Saanich, B.C., couple

Jurors have come back with a guilty verdict in the trial of William Talbott II, the Washington state man, who stood accused of killing a young Vancouver Island couple more than 30 years ago.

Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, and Jay Cook, 20, disappeared on an overnight trip to Seattle in 1987

Police in Washington state say they used information from public genealogy websites to pinpoint William Earl Talbott II as a suspect, then arrested him after getting a DNA sample from a cup that fell from his vehicle. (Charles Biles/Associated Press)

A Washington state man accused of killing a young Vancouver Island couple back in 1987 has been found guilty.

U.S. media outlets are reporting William Earl Talbott II has been convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. The jury had begun deliberating Tuesday afternoon, the Daily Herald reported.

Twenty-year-old Jay Cook and 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg had been travelling from Saanich, B.C., to Seattle, Wash., when they disappeared. Their bodies were later found in rural areas in Washington, but Talbott wasn't immediately arrested. It would take 30 years and new crime scene DNA testing through a genealogy site to find their killer.

Prosecutors say on Nov. 18, 1987, Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend Cook drove a van from their hometown of Saanich, near Victoria, to Seattle for an overnight trip.

Frantic search

When they didn't return, their families began a frantic search for them, including renting a plane to try to spot the copper-coloured Ford van they had been driving.

About a week later, Van Cuylenborg's body was found down an embankment in rural Skagit County, north of Seattle. She was naked from the waist down and had been shot in the back of the head.

Eighteen-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg, right, and her boyfriend, 20-year-old Jay Cook, were both found slain near Bellingham, Wash., in 1987. (Crime Stoppers)

Hunters found Cook dead two days later in brush near a bridge over the Snoqualmie River in Monroe, which is about 95 kilometres from where his girlfriend was discovered. He had been beaten with rocks and strangled with twine and two red dog collars, authorities said.

The couple's van was found in Bellingham, near a bus station. Van Cuylenborg's pants were in it; investigators found semen on the hem, and said it matched that on her body.

Detective fought back tears

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Baldock said in court that their families may never know specifics of what happened. But he argued that the question of who did it was answered.

Sheriff's detective Jim Scharf fought back tears on the witness stand as he recalled a phone call from Parabon NanoLabs, which uses a new DNA processing method to extract more information from samples.

With the help of a genealogist, the lab had found a man whose genetic profile matched DNA from a crime scene.

"What was that name?" the deputy prosecutor asked.

"William Earl Talbott II," Scharf told the jury in Snohomish County Superior Court.