A Washington state man who was convicted of two counts of aggravated murder of a young BC couple in 1987 had his conviction overturned.
William E. Talbott II was arrested more than 30 years after the murder of 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg and 20-year-old Jay Cook.
In 2019, Talbott was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
However, he claimed that the trial produced numerous “evidentiary and constitutional errors”, including a partial jury.
In a ruling, the Washington State Court of Appeals she found that, when questioned, a juror indicated that she might have “difficulties with the trial issues and evidence, due to past traumatic experiences and as a new mother, so she was not sure whether it could be fair.”
Talbott’s attorney made a motion to dismiss her, but the trial court denied the motion and the jury deliberated on the case.
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In November 1987, 18-year-old Van Cuylenborg and 20-year-old Jay Cook were killed on a trip to Washington state.
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Van Cuylenborg and Cook each lived with their parents in Victoria.
On November 18, 1987, the high school sweethearts decided to visit Seattle on an overnight trip.
They took the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington, and drove across the Olympic Peninsula in a pickup truck. Investigators know they stopped to fill up gas at a business called Ben’s Deli. Receipts show that they then took another ferry from Bremerton to Seattle.
However, the researchers do not know what happened next.
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On November 24, 1987, Van Cuylenborg’s body was discovered in a ditch 20 kilometers south of Bellingham, Washington. They had sexually assaulted her and shot her.
A day later, his wallet and keys were found behind a Bellingham tavern. The van was found next to the Greyhound bus station.
On November 26, 1987, Cook’s body was found under a bridge near Monroe, Washington. He had been beaten and strangled.
Talbott was identified as a suspect through the use of genetic genealogy, which is the use of DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between an individual and their ancestors.
It was the first arrest of a murder suspect using the results of Parabon’s Genetic Genealogy Service.
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