Utah Family seeks help in slaying of Jazz exec's in-law

By Jennifer Dobner

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- One year after the death of Utah Jazz executive Greg Miller's mother-in-law, her family still struggles to explain her unsolved murder but finds comfort in surrounding themselves with the books she loved so much.

Sherry Black, 64, was found stabbed to death inside her South Salt Lake book shop Nov. 30, 2010. A year later, police still have no suspects and no apparent motive for the murder.

"It's hard to come here and know what when on," Black's daughter, Heidi Miller, said of her mother's B&W Billiards and Books shop.

"At the same time, we know that she touched every one of these books. It was something she loved," Miller said. "As hard as the memories are -- you know, the bad things that happened here -- it's a bookstore filled with love."

Black's family plans to mark the anniversary of her death with a public graveside memorial service Wednesday at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park in Salt Lake City.

The family reopened her bookstore Monday for a news conference aimed at publicizing the unsolved case. They hope to have the business running again on a limited basis by the start of the new year.

South Salt Lake police have been tight-lipped about details of their evidence in the case, but have said DNA testing on blood found at the scene indicates a male suspect was possibly injured during the incident. Investigators have run the sample through various criminal databases but have found no DNA match, said Gary Keller, executive officer for the department.

Investigators also found a black men's Armani Exchange-brand belt in the bookstore and believe it might link them to the person or persons responsible. The belt does not belong to anyone in Black's family, police have said.

"We need that one piece of information that is going to pull all the pieces of the puzzle together," Keller said. "We don't have a motive. It's a mystery, but we want to bring the family closure."

On Monday, Earl Black declined to discuss the details of the day he found his wife of 45 years dead in the store.

"It's not something I want to get into," he said politely, pursing his lips. "It was a hard day."

Asked if he has any theories about what happened to his wife, Earl Black shakes his head and shrugs.

"We're still searching for the answer. Till we find the guy, we won't know why or what made him do it," he said. "It's just one big question. Who would do something so horrible?"

Books were Sherry Black's first love and -- besides raising her family -- her life's work, family members said. Sherry and Earl Black opened the business, which is adjacent to their home, as a billiard and bowling supply store in about 1975, but the books took over in the late 1980s.

"She pushed me out, so basically, I turned it over to her and helped her where I could," Earl Black said. "She'd get up in the morning and come out here in her pajamas and get on the computer. ... She would spend all day here."

Along with the rows and rows of bookshelves, Sherry Black's store has wooden walls adorned with animal trophy heads, family photos and treasures like bottles of buttons, which she loved to collect. Heidi Miller said the inventory today tops 100,000 volumes from all genres, including Mormon history and scripture, classic literature and children's books, which were Sherry Black's favorite.

Police and Sherry Black's family say it doesn't appear anything was taken from the store, although it's difficult to be sure because Sherry Black kept the inventory data in her head, not on a computer. Earl Black said no cash was taken from the store's register and the store did not appear to have been ransacked.

Sherry Black's family has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

They've also set up a website to take tips. And they've posted billboards with Sherry Black's picture around the Salt Lake Valley, each asking the same question: "Do you know my killer?" In the photograph, a smiling Sherry Black has her fists up as if she's preparing to throw a punch.

"We need to find the person that did this. He's out there endangering other people," said Miller. "What he did was a horrible crime, and he needs to be caught before he can do this to somebody else."

Published: Wed, Nov 30, 2011