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)

B.C. 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

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

BC Timber Sales’ operations on the North Island and Central Coast to be audited

The Forest Practices Board randomly chose the region to check for compliance to legislation

BC Ferries Sailing Cancellations

Prince Rupert - Haida Gwaii - Northern Adventure

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

Refresh of Liberal government’s agenda comes amid new looming COVID-19 crisis

Lockdowns saw fed spending soar to historic levels in effort to offset pandemic’s blow to Canadians’ livelihoods

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Most Read