Real Names: Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 18, 1987
Details: Twenty-year-old Jay Cook and seventeen-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg were residents of Victoria, Canada who traveled to Seattle, Washington on a buying trip for Jay's father. On November 18, 1987, they left Victoria and took the 4pm car ferry to Port Angeles, Washington. They drove Jay's father's van down Highway 101 into Hoodsport, arriving there at 8pm; then, they drove through Allyn, presumably on their way to Bremerton. It is believed that they then boarded another car ferry that went to downtown Seattle; however, they were never seen alive again.
Jay and Tanya were expected home the next day, but when they did not call or arrive home that evening, their parents became concerned. On November 20, they were reported missing. Tragically, on November 24, Tanya was found raped and shot to death in Skagit County, Washington; her body was bound with plastic wire ties. At first, police suspected that Jay may have killed her; however, neither family could believe this.
The next day, the van was found ninety miles away in Bellingham; a Bremerton-Seattle ferry ticket was found inside. Its keys and more plastic ties, along with plastic gloves, Tanya's driver's license, and a half box of ammunition were discovered underneath a tavern two blocks away. On November 26, Jay was found beaten and strangled to death, his hands also bound with plastic ties, underneath a bridge near Monroe.
After the murders and over the Christmas holidays, Jay and Tanya's families were taunted by disturbing greeting cards believed to be from the killer. They had taunting descriptions of the murders, and the author claimed responsibility for the crimes. Nearly twenty had been mailed over several different holidays. Postmarked from New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, they shared the same handwriting. However, DNA found on them did not match that found on the bodies. Police, however, believe the letter writer may have been involved in the murders.
Suspects: The police believe Jay and Tanya could have met their killer on the ferry from Victoria to Washington or on the 10:20pm Bremerton ferry to Seattle, although it is more likely that they met him on the latter one. Police believe that the killer asked them for a ride, then tried to sexually assault Tanya. It is believed that Jay was killed for being "in the way" and Tanya was killed to cover up the sexual assault.
Based on evidence found with Jay's body, investigators believe that the killer may have done time in prison; his efforts to conceal his identity are indicative of someone familiar with police procedures. Investigators believe that he did make one mistake, however. It is suspected that he took Jay's waist-length black ski jacket with red piping on the sleeves. He may have also taken Tanya's olive-drab day pack and her Minolta 35mm camera with serial number 2067048. It is possible that someone noticed him with these incriminating items.
Police also believed at the time that the person who had written the greeting cards may have had something to do with the murders.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the October 25, 1989 episode.
Results: Solved. Several possible suspects have been questioned in the case over the years, including serial killers Robert Yates and Charles Sinclair. Both were active in the Seattle area in 1987. However, DNA evidence has cleared them of any involvement. The DNA profile has also not matched anyone in police databases.
In 1990, police located the camera lens that belonged to Tanya's missing camera at a pawn shop in Portland, Oregon. However, police were unable to find any leads from this discovery.
In August 2010, Victoria cold-case detectives finally identified the person responsible for sending the disturbing greeting cards. He is a man now in his 70s with severe mental issues. He readily admitted that he was their author. Police interviewed him for several hours and now believe he had nothing to do with the murders; he probably read about the story in a newspaper and sent the cards from there.
In April 2018, Snohomish County investigators announced that a Parabon DNA Snapshot composite of the killer was created based on DNA evidence at the crime scene. Composites were made of the killer at ages twenty-five, forty-five, and sixty-five. As a result of the Parabon analysis, it is believed that the killer is a white male of European descent, with hazel or green eyes, fair skin, possible freckles, and possible male-pattern baldness.
Finally, on May 18, 2018, a suspect was arrested in the case. Fifty-five-year-old William Earl Talbott II was arrested in Seattle after his DNA was determined to have matched the DNA found at the crime scene. When the murders were committed, Talbott was twenty-four and living with his parents in Woodinville, just seven miles from where Jay's body was found.
Authorities said the arrest was made through genetic genealogy. They uploaded the DNA profile to GEDMatch, and found second cousins of the killer. Through this, they were able to create a family tree, which led them to Talbott's parents. They then tracked him down and were able to retrieve a sample of his DNA from a discarded cup. A similar technology was used to identify the Original Night Stalker.
Talbott was initially charged only with Tanya's murder. However, in June, he was also charged with Jay's murder. He pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing. Investigators asked for anyone who knew Talbott around the time of the murders to come forward. Several of his former friends contacted police; they noted that Talbott had worked as a delivery driver in 1987. They confirmed that the route he took for his deliveries matched that of the couple's travel plans at the time.
Investigators still want to find anyone who may recall seeing Talbott driving Jay's van or using Tanya's camera. They would also like to identify a blanket found with Jay's body. More information will be available as this case develops.
- Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg on Unsolved.com
- Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg on Wikipedia
- More Victims of Washington Serial Killer Suspected
- Serial killers - they're not always who we think
- Young couple's slaying confounds detectives
- International team tries to crack unsolved 1987 murders of Victoria couple
- Author of letters that taunted family of 1987 slaying victims sought by detectives
- Breakthrough in Decades-Old Murders of Victoria Couple
- Police find harassing letter writer in double homicide case
- What happened to Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg?
- Police in Washington State reveal new suspect details in 1987 murder of Victoria couple
- Man arrested in connection with 1987 killings of Saanich couple in Washington state
- Arrest made in 1987 murder of young couple in W. Washington
- DNA Sample Pinpoints Trucker to 30-Year Cold Case
- Tanya Van Cuylenborg on Find a Grave