48 Hours November 20 2021: A Killer in the Family Tree


Tonight, Saturday November 20 2021 at 10pm ET/PT, CBS broadcasts a new episode of 48 Hours featuring a story on a woman, Chelsea Rustad, who uploaded her DNA to a public database and discovered that someone in her family tree was involved in the 1987 murders of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend, Jay Cook.

Scroll down below to watch videos from and read a summary of tonight’s (11/20/2021) 48 Hours episode titled “A Killer in the Family Tree”.


Episode Videos

In 2013, Chelsea Rustad became interested in genealogy and began building her family tree. Little did she know, her DNA would help locate a suspect in an unsolved double murder.

In recent years, people have started uploading their DNA to public websites with the hopes of discovering more information about their family history.

A cold case from 1987 stumped investigators for more than 30 years — until DNA led them to a killer in just two hours. How did they finally catch him?

Episode Summary

When Chelsea Rustad uploaded her DNA to a public database hoping to find other branches of her family tree, she never expected that process would prompt a visit from police investigators. The police were at her Washington state home with devastating news – someone in her family may have committed a double murder. 48 HOURS and correspondent Erin Moriarty immerse viewers in the case of a killer who eluded police for 31 years, then was identified in just two hours by genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, in “A Killer In The Family Tree” to be broadcast Saturday, Nov. 20 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) and streamed on Paramount+.

The broadcast features interviews with Rustad, who unknowingly found herself in the middle of a murder investigation, and Moore, who was able to quickly identify Rustad’s relative – using genetic genealogy in her first criminal case. It’s a story that starts with the murders of Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, and her boyfriend, Jay Cook, 20, in 1987, and raises questions about the use of genetic databases by everyday people and how the new wave of investigators can bring life to cold cases.

“I had no inkling at all that … that there were secret relatives I didn’t know about or mysteries to uncover,” Rustad says.

Then the police visited her.

“They let me know they are investigating a family member of mine for murder,” Rustad says, “a double homicide from 1987. … This was a person in my family tree.”

For more than 30 years, investigators in Washington state had been trying to solve the murders of Cook and Van Cuylenborg. At the time, police were concerned a serial killer might have done it. The killer remained a mystery until DNA found on Van Cuylenborg’s pants was uploaded to the same database where Rustad had loaded her DNA. Moore, known for her work on the PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” was called in to help find the person who matched the unidentified DNA.

“It’s the web of matches,” Moore says. “It’s putting those pieces together little by little.”

“Genetic genealogy has exposed a lot of secrets that people had hoped would remain secret,” Moriarty says to Moore.

“Yes,” Moore says. “Oftentimes, it’s someone’s deepest, darkest secret.”

How did Moore narrow down the suspect? And how did he elude investigators so long? 48 HOURS and Moriarty have the details.

48 HOURS: “A Killer in the Family Tree” is produced by Lisa Freed, Sarah Prior and Mary Ann Rotondi. Lauren Clark is the field producer. Sara Ely Hulse and Charlotte Fuller are the development producers. Shaheen Tokhi and Addison Briley are the associate producers. Michael McHugh is the producer-editor. Atticus Brady and Michael Baluzy are the editors. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.

48 HOURS is broadcast Saturdays at 10:00 PM, ET/PT, on CBS and streams on Paramount+. Follow 48 HOURS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Listen to podcasts at CBSAudio. Stream 48 HOURS on Paramount+.


This newsmagazine investigates intriguing crime and justice cases that touch on all aspects of the human experience. Over its long run, the show has helped exonerate wrongly convicted people, driven the reopening — and resolution — of cold cases, and changed numerous lives. CBS News correspondents offer an in-depth look into each story, with the emphasis on solving the mystery at its heart. The program and its team have earned critical acclaim, including 20 Emmys and three Peabody Awards.



About 48 Hours

This newsmagazine investigates intriguing crime and justice cases that touch on all aspects of the human experience. Over its long run, the show has helped exonerate wrongly convicted people, driven the reopening — and resolution — of cold cases, and changed numerous lives. CBS News correspondents offer an in-depth look into each story, with the emphasis on solving the mystery at its heart. The program and its team have earned critical acclaim, including 20 Emmys and three Peabody Awards.

This show is broadcast on CBS, also known as the Columbia Broadcasting System.

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1 Response

  1. Genealogy has become the best tool for law enforcement. In the case being discussed here, it probably would have never been brought to justice without it. Having stated that, I must take issue with the professor commenting in the closing segment. It is quite obvious that she has nothing but disdain for our judicial system, particularly in light of the Rittenhouse case in Wisconsin. That case is not relevant here, but the attacks on our system of justice do nothing but spread hatred and violence at a time when we don’t want or need it. When the jury speaks, that is the end of that particular case whether you like it or not.

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