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

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

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.

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