The murder of two young Victorians, Tanya Van Cuylenborg (18) and Jay Cook (20) who were visiting Washington state in 1987 has remained a mystery to this day.
But recently, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office partnered up with Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company in Virginia, to generate an image of the suspect that uses his DNA to predict his physical appearance and ancestry.
Although investigators have had access to this DNA for the last 30 years, it has never matched any profiles available on file. The new images include approximations of the suspect at age 25, 45, and 65.
These photos are the closest depiction of the suspect that is available to us, but they’re not perfect. DNA phenotyping cannot predict an individual’s body mass index, so an average BMI of 22 has been assigned to the suspect.
The Snapshot also does not take into account changes in appearance based on the individual’s lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking, diet, etc., or other factors like facial hair, hairstyle, scars and tattoos.
Searching for the truth
Investigators are now asking members of the public to step forward if they know someone who matches or looks similar to the photos generated in the Snapshots.
“We are looking for anyone who knows something related to this case, or can identify a person of interest from the Parabon DNA predictions and images,” said Investigations Captain Jeff Miller. “Maybe you were too afraid to come forward at the time, or thought someone else would. Now is the time to share what you may have seen or heard.”
They are also searching for Tanya’s 35mm Minolta camera. Its lens is missing and was found at a pawn shop in Portland, Oregon in 1990, but the whereabouts of the actual camera are unknown.
Here’s what it looks like:
The victims family members are also offering up to $50,000 to anyone who can provide information that leads to investigators finding the suspect.
If you have any information or recognize the person in the images, please contact the Saanich Police Department at 250-475-4321.
What happened in 1987
The two Oak Bay High School graduates borrowed a van from Jay Cook’s father to pick up furnace parts for him, and headed to Port Angeles on November 18th, 1987 via the Coho ferry.
They were last seen in the Bremerton-Seattle area, and were reported missing on November 20th, 1987.
On November 24th, Tanya van Cuylenborg’s body was discovered in a ditch on a rural road near Alger in Skagit County, about 20 kilometres south of Bellingham. She had been sexually assaulted and then shot in the head.
A day later, her wallet and keys were found behind a Bellingham tavern and the van was located next to the Bellingham Greyhound bus station.
On November 26th, 1987, Jay Cook’s body was found under a bridge near Monroe, Washington. He had been beaten and strangled to death.
Van Cuylenborg’s father believes that the couple may have picked up a hitchhiker.