Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office detective Jim Scharf is interviewed by “60 Minutes” about how genetic genealogy solved a 31-year-old double-murder cold case. (CBS)

Local cold case helps ‘60 Minutes’ explain genetic genealogy

An arrest in the 1987 double-murder of two people from Victoria was one of three examples highlighted in a segment you can watch here

– By Eric Stevick, Everett Herald

A local 31-year-old cold case was highlighted Sunday on the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” during a segment exploring a new crime-solving tool that combines DNA analysis and family genealogy.

The episode was reported by Steve Kroft, a long-time correspondent for the half-century-old program.

It described how the research technique led to the arrest of a 72-year-old suspect earlier this year in the so-called “Golden Gate Killer” case. Police in California believe a serial killer is responsible for 13 murders, more than 50 rapes and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 to 1986.

READ MORE: DNA sheds new light on 30-year-old B.C. murder mystery

The “60 Minutes” story explained how a detective submitted the unidentified killer’s DNA to a public database called GEDmatch, which is used by genealogy enthusiasts who voluntarily provide DNA to research family history.

The idea, detective Paul Holes told “60 Minutes,” was this: “If we can’t find him, can we find somebody related to him? And then work our way back to him? And so ultimately, that’s what we did.”

Detectives in Snohomish and Skagit counties did the same thing with the help of CeCe Moore, lead genealogist for Parabon NanoLabs, a small DNA technology company in Reston, Virginia.

READ MORE: Police hope new tools will help solve 30-year-old murder

And that led “60 Minutes” producer Michael Karzis to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in Everett earlier this month for an interview with cold-case detective Jim Scharf. Scharf had been looking for a breakthrough in the homicides of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, a young Canadian couple killed in 1987 while on a road trip to Seattle from their hometown of Saanich, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island.

Van Cuylenborg’s body was found off a road near Alger in Skagit County. She had been sexually assaulted, shot in the head and dumped in the woods. She was 18.

The body of Cook, 20, was discovered beneath a blanket near a bridge south of Monroe. He appeared to have been beaten with rocks and strangled.

Earlier this year, Scharf got “the tip of a lifetime to solve this case,” he told “60 Minutes.”

READ MORE: DNA sketch aims to crack cold case of Oak Bay High grads

A new analysis of DNA evidence led Moore and cold case detectives to identify the suspected killer, by way of second cousins who had uploaded their DNA to public genealogy sites. The cousins were searching for relatives. Detectives arrested one of those relatives, William Earl Talbott II, on a murder warrant in May.

Talbott was the only male carrier of the DNA mix from the two families that could match the DNA found at the homicide scenes.

Scharf said Monday that “60 Minutes” did a good job of describing the technology and practical applications for a national audience.

READ MORE: Arrest made in 30-year homicide of Oak Bay High grads

In the segment, the detective recalled getting the call about the DNA link.

“And she told me that we had a match to the suspect that killed Tanya and Jay. And it brought tears to my eyes. And then I screamed. ‘Yeah!’ You know, ‘We got him!’”

Scharf watched “60 Minutes” on Sunday night with his wife and son.

He was particularly interested in the interview with Moore. She is someone he’s worked with from afar but has not met in person.

“You could see how she really cares about what she is doing to help the victims and their families,” he said.

Talbott, a trucker who grew up in Woodinville, is charged with two counts of aggravated murder.

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

READ MORE: DNA privacy questioned in Victoria cold case arrest

Talbott’s name never made a list of more than 300 potential suspects, according to the sheriff’s office. If convicted, Talbott, 55, faces life in prison. His trial is set for March 26 .

More from Sunday’s episode of ’60 Minutes’

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich teen launches free online tutoring website

School Helpers matches volunteer tutors with students

Name of victims ‘ripped down’ from Victoria display

Organizers feel the act is ‘malicious’

Government Street becomes pedestrian-priority corridor

One block of downtown street closed to cars entirely

‘The face of Belmont’: Custodial staff at Langford school pivot to support parents, students

Staff serve as point of contact for parents, students with school

Greater Victoria transit usage sees gradual rise

Ridership still down 66 per cent compared to last year

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

Most Read