SEATTLE — The man who was convicted of killing Federal Way High School student Sarah Yarborough in 1991 was sentenced to nearly 46 years in prison Thursday.
A jury found Patrick Nicholas guilty of murder with sexual motivation on May 10 for the 16-year-old’s death. Yarborough was strangled while she was waiting outside of her school to go to a drill competition on Dec. 14, 1991.
A King County judge sentenced Nicholas to 548 months in prison, which is beyond the sentencing range for the crime, but took into account Nicholas' previous rape convictions when he was 16.
"I never got to take Sarah shopping for a prom dress, or a wedding gown, or to see her fall in love, become a mother, enjoy any grandchildren she might’ve given us," Sarah's mother, Laura Yarborough, said in court during sentencing Thursday.
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Investigators put out a sketch of the suspect based on eyewitness accounts from two 12-year old-boys who had seen a man in the area at the time of the murder and for years tried to find a match to DNA found at the murder scene with no leads.
However, in October 2019, there was a break in the case when genetic genealogists gave detectives the name of Nicholas, and they were able to match his DNA to the DNA found at the murder scene.
According to court documents, Nicholas lived in the area around the time and had arrests for rape and child molestation, yet somehow his DNA was never entered into any databases tracking offenders.
Detectives surveilling Nicholas picked up cigarettes and a paper napkin he’d discarded, and DNA on one of the cigarettes matched DNA on several items of Yarborough’s clothing at the scene, and an arrest was finally made.
"We’ve lived the last 30 years wondering if someone was going to be arrested and knowing that was kind of hanging over your head, now that’s past and we can start trying to rebuild and go on," Laura Yarborough said.
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Nicholas had been living several years in a dilapidated building on a large property with few community ties, court documents go on to say.
Court documents said Nicholas, who was 55 at the time of his arrest, was 27 when he strangled Yarborough to death with her nylons.
Det. Michael Hatch was one of the first to respond to the scene that day and has since retired from the King Co. Sheriff's Office, but also gave a statement by Zoom in court during sentencing, mentioning his colleague, Det. Jim Doyon, who never got to see the case through to its end.
"Laura Yarborough, I apologize it took so long," Hatch said, "I’m almost 70 years old now, I’m not sure how long I have on this Earth. When the day comes, Det. Doyon is going to meet me at the gate, and say, 'It’s solved isn’t it?' And I’m going to tell him, yes Jim."
By the time Yarborough was murdered, Nicholas had already been to prison for first-degree attempted rape in Benton County, where he approached a young woman in her car and threatened to kill her with a knife, according to court documents. Nicholas forced her to take off her clothes in her car, then walked the woman toward a river, where she jumped and swam away, court documents said.
That victim read a statement in court during sentencing, recounting the trauma she's dealt with since the 1983 incident.
"If the system had worked as it should, he should’ve still been in prison and in fact should’ve been in prison until 1993 had he served his full sentence," Anne Croney said in court, "The system failed me, it failed Sarah, her family, friends and countless others who have been impacted by this person’s heinous actions over the years."