New DNA Tech Closes Another Cold Case


Just weeks after the country was shocked by the arrest of a suspect in the 40 year old East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer case, the use of DNA and an open-source geneology website has apparently solved another, lesser known murder, this time from 1987:

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in Washington says a 55-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the cold case of a young Saanich couple found murdered in Washington state in 1987.

According to investigators, William Earl Talbott II, who is from the Seattle-Tacoma area, has been taken into custody. He has been charged with the first-degree murder of Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18.

Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend, 20-year-old Jay Cook, were found dead near Seattle in November 1987.


In this cold case, a digital file containing DNA genotype data from evidence at the crime scene was uploaded to GEDmatch, a public genetic genealogy website. Matches were found for two of the suspect’s relatives.

Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company in Virginia that also developed the composite sketches, discovered Talbott’s identity from the matches and police then got an abandoned DNA sample from a cup he had used.

Seattle Times Reporter Jessica Lee tweeted an informative graphic, showing how the case was solved:

The world of crime-solving brims with excitement, speculating on which cold case will be solved next:

Interesting question, that: just how many murderers are now living with the nerve-wracking worry that they, too, will soon face their day of reckoning?

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4 thoughts on “New DNA Tech Closes Another Cold Case

  1. It won’t work in every case, even if a familial match is found in a public DB, since every family tree has severed branches, but it is a novel approach to the problem.

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  2. I’m waiting to see the first couple of convictions. Will a jury convict on the basis of a sample that’s been sitting in a warehouse for 30+ years absent any other sort of evidence? Will a witness to some event that happened 30 years ago be believable?

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