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‘Put him away. Please.’ Man sentenced in 2010 killing of Utah bookseller Sherry Black

Black, 64, was found stabbed to death in her home and bookstore, B&W Billiards & Books.

(Tribune file photo) Sherry Black was killed in her South Salt Lake home and book shop on Nov. 30, 2010. More than ten years after her death, the suspect, Adam Durborow, who pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in October, was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday without the possibility of parole.

The man who pleaded guilty last year to murdering Sherry Black in 2010 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday without the possibility of parole.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit and black face mask, Adam Antonio Durborow, 30, sat with his shoulders slumped as seven of Black’s family members pushed through tears in their Wednesday testimony, describing Black and how her death affected them.

Together, they asked 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy to condemn Durborow — who was 19 when he killed Black — to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“She helped anyone she could, any way she could,” Courtney Hawks, Black’s first grandchild, said during the hearing. “There’s the real irony of all of this: She would have been an advocate for this perpetrator if only he’d chosen a different path. Instead, he preyed upon her; he brutally took out all his anger and frustration and rage on her like she was nothing — and she was not nothing.”

Skanchy described his sentencing decision as “straightforward” given the spontaneous, “egregious nature” of the crime.

A brutal discovery — and no leads

Black’s husband, Earl, found her body on Nov. 30, 2010, in their home and bookstore in South Salt Lake, known as B&W Billiards & Books. She was partially naked, with lacerations on her head and neck. A pair of scissors was lodged in her chest. Police found signs that she had been sexually assaulted.

The high-profile killing of Black — the mother-in-law of former Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller — rattled the community. The Jazz observed a moment of silence before their game the day after she was killed.

Days and weeks, then months and years passed without a lead in the case. The family gathered regularly to ask the public for help, offering thousands in reward money.

The first break came in 2016, when DNA evidence identified the genetic history of the assailant. Durborow was arrested four years later in 2020 and in October pleaded guilty to aggravated murder.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A portrait of Sherry Black along with a DNA-based snapshot of a suspect on display at a news conference where South Salt Lake police released the new DNA portrait in the then-cold case of Black, who was stabbed to death in 2010, on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017.

Law enforcement haven’t released a motive for the crime, and investigators have said they found no signs Durborow forced his way inside the bookstore. Nothing appeared stolen.

Defense attorney Heidi Buchi said Wednesday that Durborow was “very angry” that day, noting that he had endured things “no child should go through.”

But, she added, ”That is not an excuse. He does not have an excuse. He’s not offering an excuse. He knows what he did was wrong.”

“That’s why he cooperated and pled guilty as charged,” she continued. In the years since he killed Black, his remorse had only increased, Buchi said.

She asked the judge to impose a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, which would have included the possibility of parole.

‘My life will never be the same’

Family members told Skanchy on Wednesday that Sherry Black’s killing left a hole in their family. Grandchildren lost not only their grandmother, but also their mother and grandfather, who were consumed by grief after Black’s death.

When Earl Black found his wife that day, it broke him, they said. He never slept in the couple’s home again, where they had lived for more than 40 years. He stopped attending family events, ones that he and his wife had never missed before.

Growing up, Hawks recalled how she would raid her grandmother’s raspberry bush. How the older woman, just 38 when Hawks was born, taught her how to floss her teeth, put on lipstick and overcome high school bullying. Later, Black helped Hawks navigate starting and caring for a family of her own.

Hawks often called her grandmother to ask for advice, or to just say, “Hello.” She did it so much she memorized her number, and to this day, can still recite those seven digits — which she did Wednesday, out loud, standing in a courtroom in front of her killer.

Family said they wouldn’t be able to move on if Durborow would be eligible for parole in 25 years — just like they hadn’t been able to get closure for the last decade, wondering if their matriarch’s killer was someone they knew, or standing in line behind them at the grocery store.

As Earl Black took the stand Wednesday, he told Skanchy, “I don’t have it together too well.” He got one sentence out before he broke into sobs.

“For 11 years, I have had to live without Sherry,” he said. “My life will never be the same.”

He didn’t want anyone else to go through what he and his family have felt in the past decade, he said.

“Put him away,” he said. “Please.”

Before announcing the sentence, the judge said Sherry Black “would have wanted our hearts to grow with love, rather than shrink from animosity.”

“And I hope that today, as part of this, that you get that,” he continued. “And I hope, Mr. Durborow, you get that too.”

After Skanchy issued the sentence, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera both released statements Wednesday, offering condolences to the Black and Miller families.

“This was not only a crime against a family, but also our community. Today a measure of justice was found,” Gill said. “It is imperfect but the best our system can do. ... Justice would be that they never had to suffer the loss of a loved one to begin with.”