Man gets life in prison in high-profile cold case murder of Canadian couple

EVERETT, Wash.  --  It’s a cold case that has spanned more than three decades, and now prosecutors and law enforcement officials are calling it a landmark.  Investigators say it’s how they solved the case that could impact cold cases all around the nation.

On Wednesday, a judge sentenced 56-year-old William Talbott to life in prison for killing a Canadian couple. Back in November 1987, 20-year-old Jay Cook, and his 18-year-old girlfriend Tanya left Vancouver Island for Seattle on a business trip. They were murdered before they arrived.

DNA collected at multiple crime scenes was finally matched to Talbott last year. Now, after decades of searching, prosecutors closed the case using a new technique called DNA Genealogy.  It involves creating DNA profiles using crime scene samples and looking through public genealogy websites for matches, which could surface family members that lead to new suspects.

The verdict is the first of its kind when it comes to pinpointing a suspect.  The families of the victims shared their feelings in court Wednesday.

“No words sum it up better than 'Thank God Talbott is finally off the street.' The people of Skagit and Snohomish county can all breathe a sigh of relief,” says Laura Baanstra.

Talbott’s trial lasted two weeks and jurors deliberated for over two days before finding him guilty of both counts of aggravated murder.

“It seems to me the only remarkable thing he ever did was not to give to the world, but to take, and what he took was the lives of two very young people,” says Kelly Cook.

Prosecutors and law enforcement say this truly is a landmark case that proves DNA Geneology could be used to help solve other cold cases all across the country.