Snohomish County sheriff: Help us solve young couple’s 1987 murders

EVERETT — The homicides of a young Canadian couple were discovered in separate counties two days apart.

More than 27 years later, calls for help are being made on both sides of the border to determine who killed Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook.

On Saturday, a Canadian television station ran a story about the unsolved killings.

On Monday, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office sent out a press release asking for tips to the 1987 murders.

It wasn’t immediately clear if there were any new developments in the case.

“Our efforts on cold-case investigations continue,” said Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Rob Palmer. “Sometimes we like to reach out to see if any tips are generated.”

Cook, 20, and Van Cuylenborg, 18, left their homes in Victoria Nov. 18, 1987, to run errands in Washington. They crossed over to Port Angeles on the Coho Ferry.

Van Cuylenborg’s body was discovered Nov. 24, 1987, south of Alger in Skagit County. She had been sexually assaulted and shot. Cook’s body was found two days later under High Bridge off Crescent Lake Road in Monroe. He’d been beaten and strangled.

The killer abandoned Cook’s van beside a Greyhound station in a downtown Bellingham parking lot. Additional evidence belonging to Van Cuylenborg was found under the back porch of a bar near the city’s bus station.

Investigators believe the killer came prepared with a kit, likely containing a gun, zip ties, gloves and other tools. Police believe the suspect picked the couple at random, likely crossing paths with them in Seattle.

In 2010, detectives determined that anonymous taunting letters written to the couple’s families after the killings were the work of a mentally ill Canadian man. The transient was in his 70s at the time he was confronted and said he regretted what he had done years earlier. He denied killing the couple. His DNA didn’t match evidence collected in 1987.

Supporters of the couple are offering a $25,000 reward in Canadian dollars.

In a statement included in Monday’s press release, the families of the couple said they hoped that someone will come forward with information.

“If you can help, now is the time,” they wrote. “More than 27 years have passed yet their murders remain unsolved. It may be that your situation that stopped you from coming forward in the past has since changed, and now is your opportunity. Help bring closure to our families.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office anonymous tip line at 425-388-3845 or the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 360-419-7785.

The story of Cook at Van Cuylenborg is featured in a deck of cards describing cold cases in Snohomish County. Their card is the king of hearts.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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