Young couple’s slaying confounds detective

MONROE — They were young and far away from home when they crossed paths with a killer.

Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, both from Victoria, B.C., came to Washington to run an errand 21 years ago.

The couple never returned home.

Van Cuylenborg’s body was discovered Nov. 24, 1987, on a rural road in Skagit County. She had been raped and shot to death. A couple of days later, Cook was found under High Bridge, outside of Monroe. He had been beaten and strangled.

No one has been arrested for the slayings.

Van Cuylenborg and Cook are part of the state’s first deck of cold-case playing cards. They are featured on the King of Hearts. Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives created the playing cards in hopes of soliciting new leads from jail and prison inmates about unsolved homicides and missing persons cases dating back to the 1970s.

John Van Cuylenborg isn’t optimistic his younger sister’s killer will ever be found. Too much time has passed, he said. Yet he is thankful detectives haven’t forgotten about her and are trying something new to find answers.

“I don’t think it’s the ace in the hole, or the smoking gun, but perhaps it will turn up enough information to be a lead,” said John Van Cuylenborg, an attorney in Victoria.

Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook left Victoria to pick up a part for Cook’s father. They took a ferry to Port Angeles and were last seen buying a ticket for the Bremerton-Seattle ferry.

“The trail goes cold right there,” said former homicide detective Rick Bart.

Cook’s van was discovered in the parking lot of a bar in Bellingham. The ferry ticket was found inside.

Bart is convinced that whoever killed the couple knew the backroads in Snohomish and Skagit counties. The perpetrator was familiar with where to go to avoid being seen or heard, Bart said. He said that leads him to believe the suspect or suspects were from the area.

“I don’t know if it was planned, but once they committed the murders they worked hard to get away with it,” Bart said.

The slayings still hound him.

“I didn’t see any reason to kill these kids,” Bart said. “I don’t understand why they’re dead. It made no sense at all.”

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or hefley@heraldnet.com.

About this series

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives created the state’s first deck of cold-case playing cards. Each Sunday for a year, The Herald is publishing a story about a case featured on one of the cards. To see the 52 cards, go to www.heraldnet.com.

Anyone with information about unsolved homicides or missing persons cases is asked to call 800-222-TIPS (8477). A reward of up to $1,000 is offered.

Tips also can be left on the sheriff’s tip line at 425-388-3845. Callers may remain anonymous, although tips have been more successful when callers speak with detectives, police said.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A 1.2-mile stretch of 236th Street NE near Arlington will be fully closed May 31 through Sept. 2 for a road project. (Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians)
Months-long closure ahead for 236th Street NE near Arlington

The Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians is widening lanes, adding a separated shared path and improving wildlife crossings.

Nate Nehring (left) and Sam Low.
Snohomish County’s LGBTQ Pride proclamation gets no GOP support

Councilmember Nate Nehring said it would violate his “personal conscience” by “celebrating particular lifestyles.”

Denny’s employee hospitalized after shooting south of Everett

A group of people was asked to leave. Someone fired a gun. A suspect was arrested.

Everett
2 teens arrested after Everett shooting, 100 mph chase

A young man was shot in the leg at an apartment near Voyager Middle School, where kids were being released for the day.

Everett
Pair identified in apparent murder-suicide in Everett

Police believe a man killed a woman, then himself. No arrests were made. No suspects were believed to be at large.

Law enforcement stand guard at the front driveway to Cascade High School as multiple agencies attempt to track down a suspect who reportedly had a firearm near campus Friday, May 27, 2022, in Everett, Washington. Dozens of concerned family members arrived to the school and stood along Casino Road waiting to find out what was happening. An airsoft pistol was recovered during a security sweep. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Apparent threat at Cascade High turned out to be airsoft gun

Two Everett schools went into lockdown Friday as police conducted security sweeps of their campuses.

Hydraulic fluid from a Waste Management garbage truck damaged roads in Mountlake Terrace June 23, 2021. The company hired crews to put absorbent material on the fluid and swept it, but several areas need to be repaired this year. (Mountlake Terrace)
Truck leak prompts 2 miles of road work in Mountlake Terrace

About 50 gallons of hydraulic fluid spilled from a Waste Management garbage truck last June.

Everett
Homicide suspect arrested in separate murder-for-hire sting

New court papers connect Selvin Rosales-Sevilla, of Mountlake Terrace, to the killing of Kevin Nieto Mejia at Ebey Island.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Bird flu comes to Snohomish County, via backyard flock

Where exactly was not immediately released. But flock owners should be vigilant to prevent further spread of the virus.

Most Read