LOCAL NEWS

State Supreme Court to examine overturned conviction of 1987 cold-case double murder

May 10, 2022, 4:34 PM | Updated: May 11, 2022, 8:26 am
cold-case murder...
William Talbott II (Credit Andy Bronson/The Herald via AP)
(Credit Andy Bronson/The Herald via AP)

The state Supreme Court will review a SeaTac trucker’s overturned conviction for a 1987 Snohomish County double homicide.

In 2019, a Snohomish County jury found Talbott, now 59, guilty of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder for killing young Canadian couple Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18.

The trial led to the first jury conviction in the world where detectives identified the suspect through forensic genealogy.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Linda Krese gave Talbott the only possible sentence in July 2019: life in prison with no chance of parole.

With cold-case murder conviction overturned by state court, former AG explains what went wrong

Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna joined KIRO Radio’s Seattle’s Morning News in December 2021 to break down what led up to the court’s decision.

“It had to do with a juror whom the Court of Appeals concluded demonstrated actual bias,” McKenna explained. “The defense attorneys attempted to have her dismissed from the jury for cause. The prosecutor opposed that, wanted her seated, and the Court sided with the prosecution and allowed this juror to be seated, even though she expressed doubts about her ability to be impartial when they were interviewing her.

“Her mother had been the victim of domestic violence, and she’d been exposed to it. Juror number 40 had a 14-month-old daughter. Feeling very protective as a mom, she was very honest with the court, saying, ‘Look, I will do my best, I will try. I will do my very best … to be impartial,’” he continued. “But the Court of Appeals after Talbott was convicted— who filed his appeal in part based on this issue— concluded the Talbott was denied his right to an impartial jury.”

Snohomish County prosecutors appealed to the state Supreme Court in January, arguing the appellate court’s ruling conflicted with case law in Washington, citing a state Supreme Court ruling: “a mere possibility of bias is not sufficient to prove actual bias; rather the record must demonstrate that there was a probability of actual bias.”

Meanwhile, Talbott, who has maintained his innocence, has remained behind bars at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

On Wednesday, justices unanimously granted a motion to hear arguments in the case. Of 42 cases reviewed this week by the state’s highest court, it was one of only two that justices agreed to examine.

“I’m certainly grateful that the Supreme Court decided to grant the petition, and we look forward to defending our case,” Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell said Wednesday.

Cook, 20, and Van Cuylenborg, 18, had made a trip from Victoria to Seattle on Nov. 18, 1987, as an errand for Cook’s father, who needed someone to pick up about $750 in furnace parts from a company in south Seattle.

Their bodies were found two days apart when a passerby found Van Cuylenborg’s body on Nov. 24, 1987, off a rural road in Skagit County. She was nude from the waist down, and she had been shot in the back of the head. Hunters discovered Cook’s body on Thanksgiving Day under a blue blanket, near the High Bridge on the Snoqualmie River, south of Monroe. He’d been beaten around the head and strangled with twine tied to two dog collars.

Semen stains recovered from two of the crime scenes had long been kept in storage. Cold case detectives at the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office renewed their efforts to solve the case in recent years, sending the evidence to Parabon NanoLabs, who extracted a genetic profile.

Through an ancestry database, genetic genealogist CeCe Moore built family trees of the unknown suspect, based on the DNA. Within hours, she pinpointed the spot where the man’s maternal and paternal family lines intersected: a Woodinville family, the Talbotts, who only had one son.

Dori: Triple murder convict seeks parole as victim’s daughter relives trauma

That son, who went by Bill, was working as a trucker in SeaTac. Police put him under surveillance. One day, a coffee cup fell out of his truck. An officer grabbed it and sent the saliva sample to a crime lab for comparison to the semen’s genetic profile. It came back as an apparent match. Detectives arrested Talbott at his work in 2018.

One of the defense attorneys who worked on the case, Jon Scott, was appointed to serve as a Snohomish County Superior Court judge in April.

If the Court of Appeals ruling stands, he would still face a new trial.

Local News

monkeypox...
MyNorthwest Staff

Instance of monkeypox investigated in King County amid ‘growing international outbreak’

A presumptive case of monkeypox is being investigated in King County, according to Public Health, Seattle and King County.
19 hours ago
amazon...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

As pandemic-fueled surge in online shopping slows, Amazon subleases warehouse space

Amazon is planning to sublease some of its warehouse space now that the pandemic-fueled surge in online shopping has eased.
19 hours ago
People donate blood at Bloodworks Northwest on March 17, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Kar...
MyNorthwest Staff

Blood platelet shortage impacting medical treatments amid lack of donors

Ongoing since the pandemic, the blood platelet shortage is reaching critical levels as deliveries are being rationed among local hospitals.
19 hours ago
beach...
MyNorthwest Staff

Gun violence prompts early summer closures of Golden Gardens and Alki Beach

Golden Gardens and Alki Beach will close at 10 p.m. May 27 through Sept. 4 over concerns of gun violence in years past.
19 hours ago
burke-gilman...
Dalton Day

Seattle loses battle over Burke-Gilman Trail’s ‘missing link’ as project funds sunset

A spate of legal challenges over the 1.4-mile stretch of the Burke-Gilman Trail's missing link jeopardizes its completion.
19 hours ago
homeless...
Frank Sumrall

Number of King County homeless up nearly 14% since 2020, 57% remain unsheltered

In 2020, the percentage of homeless who had access to shelter on a consistent basis was 53%. Now the amount of homeless with shelter is just 43%.
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
State Supreme Court to examine overturned conviction of 1987 cold-case double murder