KING COUNTY, Wash. - Patrick Nicholas was found guilty of first and second-degree murder with sexual motivation for the 1991 killing of a Washington teenager.
On Dec. 14, 1991, 16-year-old Sarah Yarborough's body was found dumped in bushes near Federal Way High School.
Detectives say she drove to the high school for a drill team competition and from there, she was supposed to board a bus with her drill team for an event in Kirkland. She parked in the back parking lot, but no one ever saw her leave her vehicle.
About an hour after she pulled into the parking lot, two boys walking through campus saw a man exit the bushes. They found her body not far from where she parked.
It was later determined that she had been raped and then strangled while she was on her way to a school drill team competition.
Nicholas was also charged with pre-meditated first-degree murder, but the jury found him not guilty on that count.
The jury also came back with two special verdicts, adding that he committed murder with sexual motivation on both counts.
Men who found Yarborough's body testify
Andrew Miller, one of the then-teens who found Yarborough's body, testified that he and a friend saw a man in the bushes before they made the terrifying discovery.
"We finished smashing the puddles and started walking along our normal path and right when we got around the corner to the tennis court, a man stood up in the bushes. Right where that gateway is, right on the other side of where the tennis courts is. And we just stopped, you know, because he's standing up in the middle of the bushes at that time in the morning. What's he doing here? [It was] pretty creepy. And then for whatever reason, he just walked out of the bushes and started walking the same direction we were, so we kept walking, looking at each other [like] ‘what the hell is that dude doing?’" Miller testified during the trial.
When they spotted Yarborough's body, they ran back home to get their parents.
Her murder went unsolved for almost 28 years. In 2018, investigators released a composite sketch of the suspect using a technology that extrapolated facial features from DNA evidence left at the scene.
"With tech evolving, it's made it more sensitive. It's made it faster, and it's made it more discriminating because we're not looking at five areas--we're now looking at 23 areas of DNA," said a Washington State Patrol Crime Analyst about the findings in the case.
The DNA lead to the identification and arrest of 55-year-old Patrick Nicholas. He is now on trial for Yarborough's murder.
Yarborough's sweatshirt, skirt, socks and hair curlers she was wearing when she was killed were presented to the jury. The jury also saw a pair of pantyhose that detectives say was used as a ligature in her strangulation.