Jay Cook & Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Image by cskhello on Pixabay

In 1987, Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg were a young couple from Saanich, British Columbia. Jay, 20, and Tanya, 18, had met in high school. They’d been dating for six months when the two decided to visit Seattle to pick up a part for Jay’s father’s business.

Jay and Tanya left in Jay’s father’s 1977 Ford Club van, taking the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington. They drove southeast on Route 101 to Bremerton before embarking on another ferry to Seattle. They fueled up at least once along the way.

When the couple failed to return home on November 9th as they planned, their families began to worry. They had not contacted their families at all, so they reported them missing on November 20th.

A Gruesome Discovery

Four days later, Tanya’s body was found in the ditch of a rural road near the town of Alger, not far from Bellingham. She’d been raped and bound with plastic ties before her murderer shot her. Initially, the police wondered if they should pursue Jay as a suspect, but both families denied that he could ever kill Tanya. Investigators continued their search.

The next day, Tanya’s wallet and keys were found in Bellingham at the Greyhound station. Investigators found the van just a few blocks away, containing plastic ties, receipts for the ferries, and gloves. One thing was notably missing: Tanya’s camera. And while the investigators were able to obtain DNA from the scene, it did not match any criminal databases.

The new theory became that perhaps the couple had met somebody on the ferry and offered him a ride, only for him to turn on them. As Tanya’s brother, John, reported to the news, “They were both gentle souls, caring and trusting kids, and they were betrayed.”

On November 26th, Jay Cook’s body was found about 60 miles from Tanya. He’d been beaten and strangled before his body was wrapped in a strange blue blanket.

The Pain Continues

Jay and Tanya’s families were both overwhelmed, especially when they began receiving taunting cards with graphic descriptions of the murders. The postcards had been postmarked in Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles, and they were all written by the same person — a 78-year-old transient man who had mental health issues. Upon investigation, officials realized he had no connection to the murders at all.

In 1990, Tanya’s camera lens was found in a pawn shop. But to this day, no other part of the camera has been found. For years after that break, the case rested with no real leads for decades.

A Murderer, Revealed

On April 11, 2018, authorities released a composite sketch of the suspect based on DNA found at the scene decades earlier. Authorities also realized they could use the website Gedmatch, which is the same website that helped lead to an arrest in the Golden State Killer case. Authorities were able to trace the DNA back to great-grandparents, which helped fill in some of the blanks. When the cops found their suspect, they used DNA from a cup he’d thrown out to confirm that he was indeed a match.

William Earl Talbot II, 55 years old when he was arrested, had been 24 at the time of the murders. During this time frame, Talbot would have been living with his parents just seven miles from the place Jay’s body was found. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office announced Talbot’s arrest on May 18, 2018. He was charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder and pled not guilty.

Talbot’s trial is currently scheduled for spring of 2019. He faces life in prison if he is found guilty.