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Patrick Leon Nicholas found guilty of killing 16-year-old Sarah Yarborough in 1991

Sarah Yarborough, 16, was found dead at Federal Way High School in December of 1991. In 2019, Patrick Leon Nicholas was arrested for her murder.

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — On Wednesday, Patrick Leon Nicholas was found guilty of killing 16-year-old Sarah Yarborough in 1991.

A jury found Nicholas guilty of first-degree murder and second-degree murder. He was also found guilty of committing the crimes with sexual motivation.

Sarah Yarborough, 16, was found dead at Federal Way High School school on Dec. 14, 1991, around 9:20 a.m.

In 2019, 28 years after her murder, an arrest was made in the case. Patrick Leon Nicholas, who was 55 at the time of his arrest and 27 when he killed Yarborough, was charged with first-degree murder and rape.

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 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.  

Nicholas was arrested at a bar in Kent in 2019.

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