Patrick Nicholas

Patrick Leon Nicholas was arrested on October 2, 2019, and charged in the December 14, 1991 rape and murder of 16-year-old Sarah Yarborough in Kings County, Washington.

Yarborough was found dead at the Federal Way High School where she had gone to attend a drill team competition. Two 12-year-old boys found her body in a wooded area near the school about an hour later. Her face had been badly beaten, and she had been strangled with her own nylon stockings as well as by the assailant’s hands. A DNA profile was created from semen found on her clothing, including her underwear and drill uniform shorts, which had been placed neatly beside her body.

The FIGG investigation was conducted by Colleen Fitzpatrick of Identifinders who had performed an analysis of the suspect’s Y-chromosome in 2012. The investigation at that time turned up the surname of Fuller. For this investigation, Fitzpatrick also worked with genealogists Gretchen Stack and Holly Turk. They narrowed the suspect pool to two Nicholas brothers. Edward P. Nicholas is a registered sex offender whose DNA was eliminated as it is already in CODIS. Investigators have stated that had familial searching have been an option for them, the case could have been solved much sooner.

The confirmation was made through the surreptitious sampling of cigarette butts discarded by Nicholas outside of a Kent laundromat. He also resembles a composite sketch of a suspect seen in the area.

Nicholas had earlier been convicted of the attempted rape of a young woman at knife point in 1983. In 1993 he was convicted of sexually molesting his 6-year-old stepdaughter. He is now charged with first degree murder while attempting to commit second degree rape. His case proceeded in King County.

The defendant has raised as part of his arguments that the random match probability (RMP) put forth by forensic scientists in this case has been incorrectly calculated because there is ascertainment bias in the consumer DNA databases. The defence argued that a genetic genealogical search is more likely to pull up family members who have a similar forensic STR profile to the accused, and the RMP is therefore not an appropriate statistical measure of the probative value of the evidence. This argument was rejected by the court as part of the defence’s pre-trial Frye motion to exclude the forensic DNA evidence.

SNP sequencing performed for use in genetic genealogy does not and cannot test for forensic STR alleles and does not select preferentially for them. The two methods are independent in their methods of identification.

At the trial in April and May of 2023, the defence used similar arguments to try to weaken the RMP and the probative value of the DNA evidence presented against Nicholas. The defence also noted that the young boys who had seen a man come out of the woods described him as having a ‘pockmarked’ face whereas Nicholas had clear skin.

The prosecutor alleged that the sketch closely resembled Nicholas and that his face might have been red for a number of reasons, including having been scratched by Yarborough since the defendant’s DNA was found under her fingernails. The prosecution also led forensic DNA evidence to show that Nicholas matched the 13 alleles tested for on Yarborough’s sweatshirt and drill team jacket with a RMP of 1 in 120 quadrillion. Updated DNA testing from under Yarborough’s fingernails also turned up a DNA profile that was 590 billion times more likely to have come from Yarborough and Nicholas than from Yarborough and an unrelated individual. She also alleged that the defence witness, Dr. Kane, owns a private DNA consulting firm and has “made it his business to testify for the defence for over 20 years.”

The trial closed on May 3, 2023, and the jury began their deliberations on May 9, 2023. They quickly returned a verdict of guilty on charges of first-degree felony murder and second-degree murder with a sexual motivation. They found him not guilty of first-degree, premeditated, murder.

On May 25, 2023, Nicholas was sentenced to 45 years and 8 months in prison. Yarborough’s family testified to the court as to the impact that her murder has had on them.

Police had taken DNA samples from multiple suspects over the years as part of this investigation.


City of Seattle v. Patrick Nicholas. Cause No. 19-1-02178-7 KNT. Defendant’s Motion for Frye Hearing. King County Superior Court. Filed February 27, 2023.

Combos, Lucas, and Patch Staff. “Documents Reveal Cold Case Murder Suspect’s Other Crimes.” Patch, October 4, 2019. Accessed December 26, 2020.

Green, Sara Jean. “Man Found Guilty in 1991 Cold-Case Murder of 16-Year-Old Sarah Yarborough.” Seattle Times, May 10, 2023. Accessed May 10, 2023.

KING 5 Seattle News. “WATCH LIVE: Sarah Yarborough Cold Case Trial.” KING 5 News, April 17, 2023.

KING 5 Seattle News. “WATCH LIVE: Sarah Yarborough Cold Case Trial Begins.” KING 5 News, April 17, 2023.

KING 5 Staff. “DNA From Cigarette Butts Leads King County Detectives to Suspect in Nearly 30-Year-Old Cold Case.” King 5 News, October 3, 2019. Accessed December 26, 2020.

KING 5 Staff. “Man Who Killed 16-Year-Old Girl in Federal Way in 1991 Sentenced to Over 45 Years.” KING 5 News, May 25, 2023. Accessed May 26, 2023.

Price, Brian, and Amy Moreno. “New Images in 1991 Cold Case Could Aid Possible Leads.” King 5 News, February 23, 2018. Accessed December 26, 2020.

State of Washington v. Patrick Leon Nicholas. Information. No. 19-1-02178-7 KNT. Superior Court of Washington for King County. E-Filed October 3, 2019. Accessed December 26, 2020.

Sumrall. Frank. “Man Found Guilty in 1991 Cold Case Murder in Federal Way.” My Northwest, May 10, 2023. Accessed May 10, 2023.

Taylor, Michelle. “2022’s DNA Hit of the Year Program Reflects on Database Loopholes.” Forensic Magazine, May 13, 2022. Accessed June 8, 2022.


First Name Patrick
Last Name Nicholas
Other Names
Victims 1 (Details)
IGG Started 2019-09-00
Case Cleared 2019-10-02
IGG Org Identifinders


Case ID Name Age Case Opened Location Investigating Org Most Serious Charge Disposition Court
1277 Sarah Yarborough 16 1991-12-14 Federal Way, WA Kings CSO First degree murder Accused was convicted after a trial King CO CRIM DIV

Last updated: February 13, 2024

To contribute information on new or existing IGG cases, use this form.

Case data and narrative licensed under CC BY 4.0: Dowdeswell, Tracey (2023), “Forensic Genetic Genealogy Project v. 2022”, Mendeley Data, V1, doi: 10.17632/jcycgvhm96.1. All other content, including photos, have been added.