U.S. man sentenced to life after DNA-based double murder conviction

WASHINGTON, DC, USA – A truck driver, implicated by his DNA and family tree in a double murder more than 30 years after the crime, has been sentenced to life imprisonment in the first case using a revolutionary investigative technique.

William Talbott II was convicted and the end of June of killing two young Canadians, Jay Cook, 20, and his girlfriend Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, in 1987 near Seattle.

He was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison. The evidence for his conviction was found with "genetic genealogy," which involves making DNA matches with distant relatives.

Cook was suffocated to death, with a pack of cigarettes stuffed into his throat, and Van Cuylenborg died of a gunshot wound to the head.

After decades of unsuccessful searching, Seattle police finally arrested Talbott, 56, in May 2018, though he had not raised suspicions until then.

Snohomish County detective Jim Scharf, who led the investigation, credited genetic genealogy for Talbott's capture.

The technique first made headlines in 2018 after it was used to find the suspected "Golden State Killer", who is blamed for 12 murders and more than 50 rapes dating back to the mid-1970s.

In both cases – as well as at least 70 others that have been solved since – DNA found at the crime scenes was compared with the database at GEDmatch, a free genealogy website.

The website allows users to post DNA test results and then generates a list of people with similar genomes, enabling users to find distant relatives.

The database also allowed police officers to search through people with similar genetic profiles to DNA found at crime scenes. Tracing back through family trees and isolating common relatives can lead investigators to a suspect.

In addition to helping solve more than 70 cases, which had gone unsolved for years, some of the suspects identified through the process were convicted after pleading guilty.

But this is the first case in which a trial was organized, despite Talbott maintaining his innocence.

On Wednesday, July 24, he continued to claim his innocence and said he intended to appeal the sentence. – Rappler.com