Wednesday June 19, 2024

Suspect in Sarah Yarborough's murder case sentenced after over 30 years

Patrick Nicholas was arrested and charged with murder of Sarah Yarborough in 2023 after DNA test

By Web Desk
November 19, 2023
Sarah Yarborough in her cheerleading outfit. — CBS News/File
Sarah Yarborough in her cheerleading outfit. — CBS News/File

A recent documentary that aired on CBS News' show 48 Hours revealed how the suspect involved in the murder of teenager Sarah Yarborough in 1991 was sentenced to almost 46 years this year after disappearing for years.

A 16-year-old Sarah, on December 14, 1991, arrived early for drill team practice at Federal Way High School near Seattle, Washington when her team members discovered her car in the parking lot, but she was not present.

That day, Drew Miller, who was just 13 years old at the time, was skateboarding through school grounds with a friend when they saw a mysterious man walk out of the bushes ahead of them.

They did not initially think much of it, but later discovered the body of Sarah, about 300 feet away from her car, in the bushes where the man had just been. Miller and his friends were horrified by the scene, according to CBS News.

Miller and his friend collaborated with police to create sketches of the man they saw at Sarah's crime scene. The sketches were publicly posted and the killer's DNA was found on Sarah's clothing.

Despite a full male DNA profile, no match was found over weeks, months, or years, and by the early 2000s, investigators had looked into over 3,000 leads and entered the DNA into the CODIS system, a national DNA database but were still unsuccessful.

In 2011, investigators sought help using forensic genetic genealogy to identify a possible suspect in Sarah's murder.

Investigators reached out to renowned US forensic scientist Colleen Fitzpatrick who used software to compare unknown DNA profiles to public DNA databases and traced Sarah's killer's family tree back to a man named Robert Fuller, a Mayflower-born man.

This was the first break in the case in 20 years. In September 2019, Fitzpatrick's team identified two new suspects: brothers Edward and Patrick Nicholas, who were descendants of Fuller. Edward's DNA profile was already in the CODIS database and was not a match.

Detectives identified Patrick as the suspect in Sarah's murder and discovered that he frequently took a bus route past Federal Way High School around the time. Undercover detectives followed Nicholas to a laundromat and collected the two cigarette butts and a napkin that Patrick used.

The DNA from the cigarette butts matched the DNA found at the Yarborough crime scene, providing valuable information for the investigation.

Patrick Nicholas was arrested and charged with the murder of Sarah Yarborough in 2023. Despite having a previous criminal record of five sexual assaults, Nicholas had no record in the CODIS database.

Prosecutors found evidence during a home search, including a torn magazine photograph and a 1994 newspaper article about the Yarborough case as the case was brought to trial in the spring of 2023.

Patrick, On May 10, 2023, was found guilty of first-degree and second-degree murder, both committed with sexual motivation, and received a sentence of almost 46 years.