More than 30 years after the bodies of Oak Bay high school sweethearts Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, and Jay Cook, 20, were found, the man facing charges for their murders won’t face the death penalty.
Snohomish Country prosecutors confirmed on Nov. 19 that William Earl Talbott II won’t face the death penalty, a month after the Supreme Court ruled that the sentence is unconstitutional in Washington state, where the murders occurred, and where the trial is expected to take place. Instead, the death penalty in Washington is being replaced with life imprisonment.
A trial for the murders is expected to begin in early April after pretrial motions March 29.
There are more than 11,000 pages of investigation reports from two law enforcement agencies related to the case.
Cuylenborg and Cook were travelling from where they lived in Saanich to Washington when they went missing. Although their bodies were found separately a week later, it would take more than 30 years for an arrest to be made. Cuylenborg had been found sexually assaulted and shot, and Cook was found several days later in another location, beaten and strangled to death.
At the time, Talbott would have been 24-years-old. At the time of the murders, he is believed to have lived approximately 10 kilometres from where Cook’s body was found.
Talbott, now 55, was identified as a suspect only after a new analysis of DNA evidence in 2018. A genetic genealogist and cold case detectives identified his DNA through the DNA of second cousins submitted to genealogy sites in search of relatives. Instead, they may have inadvertently solved a decades-old murder.
Talbott, a SeaTac truck driver, was taken into custody on May 17, 2018, in Seattle. He faces life in prison.