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Man who killed 16-year-old girl in Federal Way in 1991 sentenced to over 45 years

Sarah Yarborough was found dead in Federal Way on Dec. 14, 1991.

KING COUNTY, Wash. — The man convicted of killing a 16-year-old girl in 1991 was sentenced to 45 years and 8 months on Thursday morning.

Patrick Leon Nicholas was found guilty of first-degree murder and second-degree murder in the killing of Sarah Yarborough. He was also found guilty of committing the crimes with sexual motivation.

Nicholas is also not permitted to have any contact with members of the Yarborough family or friends.

Before the sentence was announced, members of Yarborough's family testified before the court about the impact of her murder.

"When we lost her, our family was irrevocably changed," said Yarborough's mother, Lori.

Sarah Yarborough was found dead at Federal Way High School school on Dec. 14, 1991, around 9:20 a.m.

Yarborough was last seen leaving her home to go to her high school, en route to a drill team competition. Her car was parked in the school parking lot. 

Her body was discovered by two boys – a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old – who took a shortcut through bushes at the school. The boys and another jogger who was near the scene at the time of the murder were able to help investigators create a composite sketch of the suspect. 

The sketch led to over 4,000 tips, but officers were unsuccessful in making an arrest.

Then there was a break in the case when a forensic genealogy company contracted by the King County Sheriff's Office called with a lead on a person of interest named Patrick Nicholas who lived in King County, court documents said. 

Detectives started surveilling Nicholas outside a strip mall in Kent. Nicholas smoked a few cigarettes and tossed the butts on the ground along with a napkin. Detectives later collected those items, which became crucial pieces of evidence, according to court documents. 

The King County Sheriff's Office sent the cigarette butts and napkin to the state crime lab, which confirmed the DNA matched samples collected from Yarborough's clothing at the crime scene in 1991.

In 2019, 28 years after Yarborough's murder, an arrest was made in the case. Nicholas, who was 55 at the time of his arrest and 27 when he killed Yarborough, was arrested at a bar in Kent.

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