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What happened to Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook? True-crime special Unraveled: Once a Killer explores horror story

Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook (Image via Discovery+)
Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook (Image via Discovery+)
Shruti Kotiya
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It's time to learn about another infamous unsolved murder, Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook's, in Discovery+'s upcoming true-crime special, Unraveled: Once a Kill, releasing on April 22.

The series is said to be hosted by Alexis Linkletter and Billy Jensen, and will investigate, dissect, and applaud the progress made in solving cases since the breakthrough of DNA genealogy.


Who were Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook? What happened to them?

Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook were Canadian residents who took an overnight trip to Seattle, Washington to pick up furnace parts for Jay's father. The two were just 19 and 20 in age, and had been dating for six months. They left town in a bronze Ford Club Wagon van and arrived in Port Angeles, Washington at 4.00 pm.

According to The Herald, the two were last seen alive in the town of Allyn and it is believed that the two were abducted just before midnight, before they could reach Seattle. They were first reported missing on November 19, 1987 as they never returned home.


Timeline of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook's murder

UPDATE: There has been an arrest in the case of murdered teens Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg. buff.ly/2IQUCxx https://t.co/7D0RUOIaHx

It was not an easy job to find the bodies of missing Canadian couple Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook. Luckily, they were found in less than a week, but in a very bad state.

On November 24, 1987, Tanya Van Cuylenborg's body was found in a ditch in a rural rural town in Washington. She was shot in the head and had no pants or underwear on, and zip ties were found near her body. It was believed that she had been r*ped. The next day, the keys to their van, Tanya's ID, ammunition matching the bullet that killed Tanya, zip ties, and a disposable glove were found underneath the porch of a local tavern near a bus station.

Jay Cook's parent's van was found in a parking lot in downtown Washington. The van contained more clues like zip ties and Tanya's black pants, but Jay was nowhere to be found.

Jay Cook's body was found on November 26, 1987 in rural Snohomish County, which was about 70 miles away from where Tanya's body was found. He had been strangled, a pack of cigarettes had been stuffed down his throat, and zip ties were found near his body.

A month later, an anonymous writer began sending menacing letters to Tanya and Jay's family, and the writer turned out to be the killer.


About their case

Medical examiners had found semen on Tanya, but it unfortunately went cold by 1994.

Using that very DNA, a Virginia-based DNA technology company, Parabon Nanotech, was able to create a phenotype report in April 2018. The DNA phenotyping report produced computer-generated images of the suspect's age progression from the year of the crime.

In 2015, a woman named Chelsea Rustad, with no connection to the victims, uploaded her DNA to a website where users shared their DNA to help build family trees. Investigators found that the suspect was on Chelsea's family tree.

After genetic genealogy helped connect the dots to a suspect, it led the Snohomish County authorities to William Talbott II and they obtained his DNA sample from a discarded paper cup in May 2018. Luckily, it was a full match to the DNA found at the crime scene.

William was 24 at the time of the murders and used to live with his family. The place was roughly seven miles away from where Jay's body was found. He argued throughout the trial and claimed that everything was consensual, and that someone else was behind Tanya's murder. After DNA evidence was gathered along with testimonies from William's former roommates and past incidents of violence, he was sentenced to life without parole in July 2019.

Learn more about this murder on Discovery+'s upcoming series Unraveled: Once a Killer, releasing on April 22.


Edited by Sabika

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