Sarah Yarborough Murder: A Cold Case Dating to the Mayflower

21 Sep

Do you know me?



On the morning of December 14, 1991, 16-year old Sarah Yarborough of Seattle went to school early. She didn’t want to miss the bus that woud take her cheerleading team to a competition. An exciting day for her. Except she didn’t make the bus. Her body, clad in her cheerleader uniform, was found near her parked car. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Several witnesses saw a man in the area, who was described as twenty-something, with long blonde hair, clad in a black trench coat, and driving a tan 1970 Chevy Nova, or similar car. A composite was created from these accounts.

Months and then years went by, and despite thousands of tips, no suspect was ever developed. The case went cold, as they say.

In a creative move, the King County Sheriff’s Department sent the DNA profile obtained from young Sarah’s body to forensic consultant Colleen Fitzpatrick in California. Employing genealogical techniques, she matched the crime scene DNA to the Massachusetts family of Robert Fuller, whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower in 1630.

Did this solve the case? Not yet. By now, the Fuller’s of 1630 would likely have thousands of descendants so the suspect pool remains large. But having the name Fuller attached to the other evidence might eventually be the key connection that leads to this killer. Let’s hope.


Posted by on September 21, 2012 in DNA, Forensic Art


6 responses to “Sarah Yarborough Murder: A Cold Case Dating to the Mayflower

  1. Elizabeth L. Semien

    September 21, 2012 at 11:47 am

    D.P… Given this occurred on the West Coast and the number of generations removed from the Fuller’s of the 1630’s, it is not likely the perp even knows he is a descendant. The article doesn’t say, did Colleen facilitate the match using mitochondrial DNA? I also would like to understand how Fuller’s original DNA match acquired?


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      September 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Basically this is genealogical work and this often depends on mtDNA. The gaol is to trace current DNA–in this case the killer’s DNA was obtained form the victim—and trace it back as far as possible. Sometimes it can’t be traced all the way back but if it goes up the chain to someone who is known by other means the be related to a famous person–in this case a Mayflower traveler–then the connection between the current subject and the famous person can be made. Here, the DNA simply suggests that the killer is a descendent of Fuller and that would eliminate anyone who isn’t. And in the end that’s what evidence does, it eliminates possibilities until only one–or a few—are left. If a suspect is ever developed thru these connections then a more exact nuclear DNA match would be sought.


      • CJ Snyder

        September 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm

        How have they tracked dna from the Mayflower descendants? Did they exhume bodies? If so, did they exhume them all? I’m assuming they don’t have toothbrushes left over from the mid-1600s. 🙂


      • D.P. Lyle, MD

        September 22, 2012 at 9:13 am

        I doubt many were exhumed. They can get mtDNA from known descendants and this will create a maternal lineage. Also nuclear DNA of known descendants can be used to build a familial profile—members of the same family have more of their DNA in common with other family members than they do with the general population. Neither of these is perfect but each can be used to show connections.


  2. CJ Snyder

    September 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I love, love, LOVE your columns like this! 🙂 Cold cases are just so intriguing. Thank you!


  3. Amber

    June 26, 2013 at 9:00 am

    This may be a shot in the dark but I lived in federal way and there was a really creepy guy that lived in the liberty lake apartments. He used to watch me walk to Federal Way High School EVERY day when I lived in Greystone Meadows and then I moved to a housing development near the steel lake park. Still he was watching. One day he tried to follow me in his car with his two children in tow! He had two little boys in the car and was literally following me at a very slow pace about 20-30 feet behind me down a back road that I used to take to get home. I can’t remember where I was walking home from but I ran home as fast as I could. I really thought I was in danger of being kidnapped. This same guy used to stalk me at my job as well when I worked for Albertson’s. He would consistently visit my checkout line even when my line was long and there were other open lines. I always wondered if he had anything to do with her disappearance. I was twelve at the time of her disappearance. This guy wasn’t white though. He was of mixed race or something. Short light skinned guy with dark curly hair and looked as though he were of Cuban heritage. He lived in the 3rd floor of the liberty lake apartments that faced 312th. He worked at a hardware store nearby. I only know that because I ran into him with my brother there. Boy, that scared the crap outta me. I don’t want to falsely accuse someone of this horrific crime but I just wondered all these years if he had something to do with it being he was into stalking young girls.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: