The case of Sarah Yarborough’s murder outside her high school left the police with numerous tips, but for years, the investigation yielded no fruitful leads. The quest for justice became an enduring ordeal for Sarah’s parents, compounded by the frustration of the unsolved crime. After several decades, the breakthrough finally came when Patrick Nicholas was found guilty of the heinous act. ’48 Hours: The Hunt for Sarah Yarborough’s Killer’ meticulously details the investigation, shedding light on the challenges faced by law enforcement and the profound impact on Sarah’s grieving family.
Who is Patrick Nicholas?
Patrick Nicholas, the convicted killer in the case of Sarah Yarborough, had a history marked by violence and aggression. His criminal tendencies manifested early in his life, as he had previously served time in juvenile prison for the heinous acts of raping two women and attempting to rape a third. Although details about his childhood remain elusive, his prison records paint a grim picture of a man with a longstanding inclination towards criminal behavior. In his previous crimes, Nicholas had approached his victims with a knife, compelling them to undress before subjecting them to sexual assault.
In 1983, Nicholas was also sentenced to ten years in prison for attempting to rape Anne Croney, who had barely escaped his clutches. However, after serving just three and a half years, Nicholas was released on parole under the condition that he would participate in an outpatient sex offender treatment program. Unfortunately, the duration of his involvement in this program remains unclear.
On the morning of December 14, 1991, Nicholas found Sarah Yarborough, a 16-year-old high school student in the parking lot of Federal Way High School. The police are unsure about how he managed to convince her to step out from the safety of her car, but looking at his criminal history, they assume that he used a knife or some other weapon to threaten her. He tried to rape her but ended up strangling her with nylons. Two young boys and a jogger had seen a suspicious man in the woods just a few minutes before they had chanced upon Sarah’s body and they even helped the police with a sketch but it was not very accurate.
The investigation into Sarah Yarborough’s case faced a significant breakthrough in 2019 when advancements in forensic genetic genealogy allowed the police to identify Patrick Nicholas as a suspect. Although male DNA was discovered on Sarah’s body, forensic analysis determined that she had not been sexually assaulted. However, the lack of advanced technology at the time prevented a direct match with Nicholas. In 2019, the use of forensic genetic genealogy revealed Nicholas as a potential suspect. Nicholas, who had been 27 years old at the time of the crime, had a history of living in the area and had prior arrests related to rape and child molestation. Despite his criminal record, his DNA had not been entered into any offender database. Undercover detectives conducted surveillance on Nicholas, obtaining discarded cigarette butts and a paper napkin outside a strip mall in Kent. Subsequent DNA analysis confirmed a match with the DNA found on Sarah, leading to the arrest of Patrick Nicholas at a bar in Kent, who was 55 years old at the time.
Where is Patrick Nicholas Now?
Patrick Nicholas’s trial commenced in May 2023 and extended over two and a half weeks. The jury ultimately rendered a verdict of guilt for first-degree felony murder, coupled with a special finding that Yarborough’s killing was sexually motivated. In light of this, Nicholas received a severe sentence of 45 1/2 years in prison, ensuring that he would spend the remainder of his life incarcerated. The judge justified the notably lengthy sentence by referencing Nicholas’s prior conviction for rape and highlighting the gravity of his actions, allowing him to roam free while an entire community grappled with the loss of a vibrant young child with significant potential.
Patrick Nicholas was prohibited from making any contact with the Yarborough family. Additionally, he was mandated to pay restitution to the Yarborough family, with the exact amount to be determined at a later date. The Yarborough family conveyed their appreciation to the dedicated police officers who relentlessly pursued the case, ultimately bringing justice for Sarah. Nicholas is currently serving his time in a Washington penitentiary.
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