Federal Way Girl, 16, Found Slain At School -- Friends Say She Had Everything Going For Her

FEDERAL WAY - Sarah Yarborough was a 16-year-old girl who had just joined the Federal Way High School drill team, loved to dance ballet and earned A's with an ease that made friends marvel.

Yesterday, the popular junior was mysteriously murdered. Her body was discovered on school grounds just minutes after she was expected to leave with members of the drill team for a competition.

The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. But King County police said she was apparently not shot. An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow.

The King County medical examiner's office declined to release her name. However, news of Yarborough's death quickly spread to friends, members of the drill team and her family in Federal Way.

Members of the drill team con soled each other at a home of one of the girls. Other friends of Yarborough were devastated.

They remembered the strawberry blonde girl as someone who always greeted people with a smile.

"I don't think she ever did a mean thing to anybody in the entire world," said Kristi Carson, 16, a close friend of Yarborough. "She was always there for you when you were down."

Tom and Laura Yarborough, her parents, returned from Ocean Shores in Grays Harbor County yesterday afternoon. By nightfall, they were surrounded by friends and relatives in their living room.

Dressed in the drill team's blue skirt and sweater uniform, Yarborough was discovered by a jogger about 9:15 a.m. west of the

school in brush, about a third of the way down a slope surrounded by parking lots and cloaked by tall evergreens. Police foundher car parked about 150 feet away.

The school is just west of busy Pacific Highway South and a few blocks north of SeaTac Mall.

King County police Maj. Bob Evans of the Federal Way precinct said she was probably dead less than hour before she was found.

Yarborough and other members of the drill team were to meet at the school between 9 and 9:30 a.m. yesterday to take a bus to Juanita High School in Kirkland for a competition, said Federal Way School Superintendent Richard Harris.

Yarborough arrived early.

After her body was found, the drill-team competition was canceled, as were all other weekend activities, including boys' and girls' basketball games.

Carson and other girlfriends spent Friday evening with Yarborough at a basketball game. She said Yarborough was excited and looking forward to the drill team competition.

The two first met when Yarborough's family moved to Federal Way eight years ago. Since the third grade, Carson said, she and Yarborough remained friends in school and were members of Campfire.

She and others who knew Yarborough said she was involved with a Campfire-affiliated group called The Safety Kids, which gives dance performances around the world with an anti-drug, anti-alcohol message. Last summer, Carson said, her friend traveled with the group to New Zealand.

"She had a few close friends, but usually we were just in a big group together," Carson said.

Her parents are both employees of the Weyerhaeuser Co. The Yarborough family also are members of the Bible Baptist Church in Auburn, where Sarah was active in the youth group.

"She was one of those model kids. This is not the sort of thing where she's being immortalized after death," said Gene Poppino, the church's youth pastor, who knew her well. "She really had everything going for her."

He spent the evening consoling the family in their home.

In addition to her parents, Tom and Laura, Yarborough is survived by two brothers, Micah and Andrew.

County police spokesman Dave Robinson said police questioned several people in the area surrounding the school yesterday morning. But he wouldn't say whether police have any suspects.

Investigators cordoned off an area about half the size of a football field.

A team of trained crisis counselors met at the 1,200-student high school yesterday and will be on campus this week to help students and staff cope.

"They'll help us get back to normalcy, if there is such a thing as normalcy after an episode like this," said Harris, the school superintendent.

"It's a terrible thing to have happen anywhere, and when it's a student here, you feel the hurt even more. It's a real tragedy."

-- Reported by Times staff reporters Barbara A. Serrano, Bill Gough and Eric Pryne.