Led by defense attorney Rachel Forde, William Earl Talbott II enters Snohomish County Superior Court on Tuesday in Everett to be arraigned for the 1987 murders of Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Led by defense attorney Rachel Forde, William Earl Talbott II enters Snohomish County Superior Court on Tuesday in Everett to be arraigned for the 1987 murders of Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Defendant in 1987 slayings of BC couple pleads not guilty

William Talbott of SeaTac was arraigned Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court.

EVERETT — A SeaTac man appeared in a Snohomish County courtroom for the first time Tuesday to plead not guilty to the 1987 murders of a young Canadian couple.

The families of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg filled a long row of the courtroom gallery when William Earl Talbott II, 55, entered the courtroom in a white buttondown shirt and a blue tie.

In front of news cameras, Superior Court Judge Millie Judge allowed him to be unshackled, in street clothes.

Talbott, a trucker who grew up in Woodinville, is charged with the aggravated murders of Cook, 20, and Van Cuylenborg, 18. They were killed 30 years ago on a road trip from their hometown of Saanich, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, to the SoDo district of Seattle. The couple was on an errand to pick up furnace parts for Cook’s father. They never showed up.

Days later, a passerby found Van Cuylenborg’s body off a road 80 miles north, near Alger in Skagit County. She had been sexually assaulted, shot in the head and dumped in the woods.

The body of Cook was discovered that week under a bridge near Monroe. He appeared to have been beaten with rocks and strangled.

Talbott’s parents lived six miles from the bridge, a straight-shot of a drive with only one turn, according to charging papers.

In 1987, the defendant worked as a delivery driver with a route that passed by Gensco, the business that was the couple’s destination, according to a friend’s report recounted in the charges.

The case went unsolved for 30 years. Talbott was not a suspect until a new analysis of DNA evidence led a genetic genealogist and cold case detectives to identify him by way of second cousins who had uploaded their DNA to public genealogy sites in search of relatives.

Detectives picked up one of those relatives, Talbott, on a murder warrant in May. If convicted, he faces life in prison. Talbott’s next hearing was set for July 18.

________

This story was first published in the Everett Herald. Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Northwest

(Pixabay.com)
As rates of stoned drivers increase, law enforcement face challenges

WSP trooper said a THC breathalyzer would be a “game changer” for law enforcement and courts.

E. coli. Photo courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration
Seven King County children sickened with E. coli

Seven children in King County have been infected with E. coli, a… Continue reading

Sound Publishing file photo
Remi Frederick, a Village Green employee, receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Jan. 26 in Federal Way.
County health officer looks to community immunity instead of herd immunity

Herd immunity may be unlikely to reach King County anytime soon, but… Continue reading

Courtesy Photo, Public Health - Seattle & King County
Bat positive for rabies found in King County

Sammamish resident bit multiple times

The Moe Vegan food truck serves meals at the city of Kent’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 21, 2020. Sound Publishing file photo
King County fire marshals offer regulatory relief to food trucks

39 fire authorities have reportedly agreed to standardize fire codes and inspections.

Governor Jay Inslee. Sound Publishing file photo
New laws will tax the rich, offer aid to low-income workers

Inslee signs bill creating capital gains tax; foes are challenging it in court as unconstitutional.

Washington state case count since March 2020. WA Governor's Office
Pandemic pause: King County remains in Phase 3

No Washington state counties will be rolling back their phase under the… Continue reading

Courtesy of Washington Military Department
Washington gets mobile earthquake alerts

Washington state will have its own earthquake early warning system on May… Continue reading

Most Read