Crime

He killed a young Canadian couple in 1987. Now DNA evidence offers a glimpse of his face.

Snohomish County Cold Case Detective Jim Scharf, left, presents new images rendered using phenotype technology of a potential suspect in the unsolved case of the 1987 double homicide of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg during a press conference in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
Snohomish County Cold Case Detective Jim Scharf, left, presents new images rendered using phenotype technology of a potential suspect in the unsolved case of the 1987 double homicide of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg during a press conference in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. The Herald via AP

Authorities in northwest Washington on Wednesday released composite sketches based on DNA evidence of a suspect in an unsolved, 30-year-old double slaying of a young Canadian couple.

Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, and Jay Cook, 20, of British Columbia were found dead in two separate locations after they failed to return home from a visit to the Seattle area in 1987. Their van and other evidence was later found in Bellingham.

DNA evidence collected during the investigation did not match profiles in any databases, but investigators with the Snohomish County and Skagit County sheriff's departments released three composite sketches of a Caucasian male shown in his 20s, 40s and 60s.

The sketches were based on DNA phenotyping, the process of predicting physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA evidence.

Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary says he hope the sketches will help identify a suspect.

"Jay and Tanya were brutally murdered and, more than three decades later, their killer has yet to be brought to justice," Trenary said in a statement.

Cold case sketch
This undated posted provided by the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office shows composite sketches that are based on DNA evidence that authorities are seeking help in identifying of a suspect in an unsolved, 30-year-old double slaying case of a young Canadian couple. Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18 and Jay Cook, 20, of British Columbia who were found dead in two separate locations after they failed to return home from a visit to the Seattle area in 1987. Snohomish County Sheriff's Office AP

Van Cuylenborg and Cook left their Saanich, British Columbia, homes on Nov. 18, 1987, for an overnight trip to Seattle. They were driving a brown 1977 Ford van, on an errand to buy furnace parts for Cook's family business.

When the couple failed to return home, their families filed a missing persons report.

On Nov. 24, a man walking on an isolated road south of Bellingham discovered Van Cuylenborg's body. She had been sexually assaulted, bound with plastic ties and shot in the head.

Police found the couple's van parked a block east of the old Greyhound bus station in Bellingham. Inside, they found a ticket for the Bremerton-to-Seattle ferry, along with Cook’s ID and plastic ties like the one used to bind Van Cuylenborg’s hands.

Her wallet, ID, keys to the van, a pair of surgical gloves and a box of .380-caliber ammo were found Nov. 25 under the back porch of a tavern in Bellingham that has since closed down. The tavern, Essie's, was next door to Rumors Cabaret, according to The Everett Herald.

Cook's battered body was found the next day about 2 miles south of Monroe — 75 miles from Van Cuylenborg's body.

The police were able to obtain the suspect's DNA from the van, although there has been no match on any criminal database.

Experts created trait predictions from the DNA for the subject's ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape. Officials said the suspect has fair skin, hazel-green eyes, freckles and reddish-blond hair, but his weight, facial hair and possible tattoos are unknown, The Everett Herald reported.

Several private companies offer phenotyping services to law enforcement to create sketches of suspects or victims when decomposed remains are found. The process looks for markers inside of a DNA sample known to be linked to certain traits. Police in at least 22 states have released suspect sketches generated through phenotyping.

The American Civil Liberties Union has said not enough is known about the link between genes and facial features to rely on the technology to produce a suspect.

Denver Pratt of The Bellingham Herald contributed to this story. 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt

Reward offered

The families of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook are offering a $50,000 reward for a tip leading to the killer — dead or alive. The offer expires Dec. 31.

Tips can be directed to the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office at 425-388-3845.

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