Man pleads guilty in 2010 slaying of Utah bookseller Sherry Black

The case went cold for years before DNA linked the suspect to the killing.

(Tribune file photo) Sherry Black was killed in her South Salt Lake home and bookshop on Nov. 30, 2010. On Monday, Adam Durborow pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in the case.

Nearly 11 years after bookseller Sherry Black was found dead in her South Salt Lake home, the man accused in her slaying has pleaded guilty to aggravated murder.

Adam Durborow entered his plea Monday in 3rd District Court, according to a news release from the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office.

Durborow’s sentencing is slated for Dec. 2, when a judge will decide whether Durborow will spend the rest of his life in prison or receive a sentence of 25 years to life with the possibility of parole.

On Nov. 30, 2010, Black’s husband discovered her body at their home and business, B&W Billiards and Books. Court documents showed that she was beaten and stabbed to death — an autopsy found at least 20 stab wounds. Police also found several signs that Black had been sexually assaulted after her death.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) A candlelight memorial is held in honor of the late Sherry Black at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park, Nov. 30, 2019.

But police failed to identify a suspect or motive behind her killing, and the case sat cold for years. Family described her as “without an enemy in the world.”

A break in the case came in 2016, when an outsourced genealogist working with DNA evidence was able to identify a genetic history of the assailant. Police then identified Durborow as a suspect and “surreptitiously” obtained his DNA from items he had “discarded,” Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Monday, declining to specify what the items were. Durborow’s DNA matched the genetic history identified by the genealogist.

Durborow was arrested on Oct. 10, 2020, and charged with aggravated murder. He was 19 at the time of Black’s slaying. When asked if investigators ever determined a motive in Black’s slaying, Gill said, “We’ll be able to address that more thoroughly at the time of sentencing.”

Gill attributed the identification of Durborow as a suspect to “good old-fashioned hard investigation and work.” In a statement, he commended the South Salt Lake Police Department, the Unified Police Department and prosecutors.

“With today’s plea of guilty,” Gill said in the statement, “we are one step closer to bringing a measure of justice for Sherry Black and her family.”