UPDATE Oct. 10, 2020:
KSTU-TV reports on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake officers arrested 29-year-old Adam Antonio-Spen Durborrow of Orem in connection with the murder of Sherry Black, who was beaten and stabbed to death on Nov. 30, 2010 in South Salt Lake.
Durborow was arrested on aggravated murder and aggravated burglary charges. He was held without bail. According to a probable cause for arrest statement, DNA collected from Durborow on Wednesday came back Thursday as a match to DNA evidence collected from the murder scene. Durborow was taken into custody Saturday and confessed to the homicide after being given his Miranda warning, police said.
May 24, 2018:
In a tiny bookstore off a busy highway, behind the stacks of dusty novels and dogeared hymnals, unthinkable horror.
What happened behind the counter of this quaint country bookshop? A random crime? Or cruel and bloodthirsty payback?
Now everyone in Salt Lake City is asking, Was the high price of these rare books paid in blood?
Salt Lake City is the headquarters of the Mormon religion, its histories and registries written in the hundred-year-old pages of books. Pages that can be worth a fortune.
"A nice Book of Mormon is a $100,000 book," said Ken Sanders, who sells rare books.
Sherry Black lived in Salt Lake City, and loved books too. She was a voracious reader from an early age. Her daughter Heidi Miller says Sherry never read a book she didn't love.
"She knew what she was doing. She knew where everything was, and she had a knack for it," said Heidi. "She was amazing."
Later in their life together, Sherry and husband Earl fulfilled a dream, opening a quirky little store along a busy stretch of an eight-lane highway.
"The bookstore is adjacent to Sherry Black's house," said South Salt Lake City Police Detective Joe Sutera. "It looks kind of like a little log cabin almost."
They call it B&W Supply Billiards & Books, where Earl restores old pool tables and Sherry buys and sells rare books. The most valuable books are artifacts of her Mormon faith.
"It's a small bookstore, it's a niche bookstore, mostly LDS books, which was Sherry Black's passion," said Det. Sutera.
And this quaint religious bookstore is the last place you'd expect anything bad to happen. That would change early one morning when Sherry's family learns the devil paid a visit to her little log cabin.
"I called her cellphone and I called her home and nobody would answer, and it was just so strange. I just had this really weird feeling," said Heidi.
Sherry's husband Earl returns to the shop in the early afternoon of November 30, 2010. Earl winds his way through Sherry's stacks of books, calling her name. Back in the stockroom he stumbles upon absolute horror. It's Sherry lying in a pool of blood.
It's a sight so graphic and terrifying it stuns even veteran detective Joe Sutera.
"I mean I've been doing this for quite a while and this was probably one of the most brutal scenes I've seen," said Det. Sutera. "She was beaten and stabbed, and it was a violent, brutal scene.
"This was not a well-planned, well-organized crime," said Sutera.
There's cash still in the register, and the rest of the shop appears undisturbed.
"She kept the most valuable books in a safe, and it appears that they were all accounted for," said Det. Sutera.
But if not a robbery, then why?
"In this particular case there's a lot of evidence," said Det. Sutera.
Including the killer's fingerprints, trails of his blood, and an item that's definitely out of place in this vintage religious bookstore: a trendy Armani Exchange belt.
"We don't believe it was actually used in the attack but we believe maybe he was planning on using it in the attack," said Sutera.
But why would anyone attack the mild-mannered owner of a book shop?
"All the time we've been there, I was very surprised that we've never been robbed or any problems that way," said Earl Miller.
In an interview recorded shortly after Sherry's murder, her husband Earl says he not only has to bury his wife, but dismantle the bookstore she loved so much.
"I don't know, we're not gonna leave the store open. We do plan on selling the books. We'll never know what she knew, but we can try."
Earl's heartbreaking grief proves to investigators he had nothing to do with Sherry's murder.
"We've cleared all the family," said Det. Sutera. "We've looked at them extensively, and you have to in an investigation like that. Her close friends and family have no idea who did this."
Neither do police. The fingerprints and blood don't match anything in police records.
Sherry Black did have a brief history with a suspicious customer. Does he hold the key to her brutal murder?
Sherry Black was beaten and stabbed to death inside her bookstore in 2010. Now police are wondering if it's one of those books that may have brought a killer to her door.
How many people have you interviewed about this case over the years?
"Hundreds," said South Salt Lake City Police Det. Joe Sutera.
Also found at the scene was a knockoff Armani Exchange belt, its origin unknown.
"There was a sticker on the back of the belt, the numbers 323," said Det. Sutera. "We were never able to confirm what that actually meant."
What could the killer want that forced Sherry Black to pay with her life? The answer could be right there on the shelves.
"The rare Mormon books can be worth an extraordinary amount of money," said bookseller Ken Sanders.
Ken Sanders runs a vintage bookstore much like Sherry's. It's big business in Salt Lake City, headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where parishioners will pay top dollar for a printed piece of history.
"A nice Book of Mormon is a $100,000 book. A rare Book of Commandments is worth a million dollars plus," said Sanders. "People will kill for a heck of a lot less than that."
With that kind of cash on the line, a dangerous clientele is never far away. It has everybody wondering: Was Sherry's killer someone she dealt with before?
Do you think that her murder had any connection to the rare books she dealt in?
"At the time there was a criminal gang of men, allegedly stole some extraordinarily rare books, and these books inadvertently were purchased by Sherry Black, and she sold a few of them before it came out that they were stolen and had to be returned," Sanders tells Crime Watch Daily.
That seller is Lorin Nielsen, and he's no Mormon missionary.
"His father has several rare books and rare items from Mormon history," said Det. Sutera. "So it wouldn't be that much of a surprise for some bad guy to take advantage of her."
And Sherry helped bring him down.
"She was cooperative with law enforcement in prosecuting that individual," said Det. Sutera.
Was Sherry's murder related? Was she the victim of a brutal payback? It's the best lead Det. Sutera has, but hopes of a quick resolution are dashed once again. The Nielsen connection is a dead end.
"It was a link to Sherry so of course we looked into that, and he's not the suspect," said Det. Sutera.
None of that evidence -- blood, handprints, that unique trendy belt -- could put a face to the data. Until now.
Police have created a digital reconstruction of the murder suspect.
"The heritage is 46 percent Western Africa and 34 percent European," said Unified Police Detective Ben Pender.
Investigators put the killer's bloodwork through the process of phenotyping, generating a mugshot from mere strands of DNA from age 25 to 38 and 52 years.
"This particular person, 25 years of age, and the second poster is one of somebody at 52 years of age," said Det. Pender.
Det. Pender is picking up the case where Det. Sutera left off, re-examining interviews and evidence, and getting the killer's digital mugshot out in the public eye.
"I do believe somebody saw something," said Det. Pender. "Even if it's not something that's going to solve the case, it allows us to progress the case and continue to progress this case, because it is ongoing."
And any progress could help a grieving family feel whole again.
"This is a case that's never going to go away," said Det. Pender. "It's not going to be put on the shelf until we have some resolution."
Sherry's daughter Heidi and son-in-law Greg aren't letting Sherry's killer off the hook either, bumping the reward to $250,000 for information that nabs the killer.
"We have been blessed with some resources than many families don't have, and we're fortunate that we've been in a position where we can do some of that," said Greg Miller.
If you recognize the suspect or have any information about the case, contact the Sherry Black Tip Line at (801) 412-3688.