SOUTH SALT LAKE — Reaction to Tuesday's fatal stabbing of bookseller Sherry Black continues to grow while police are saying little about potential motives or suspects.
The most public acknowledgement of the tragic killing was a planned moment of silence at the beginning of Wednesday night's Utah Jazz home game against the Indiana Pacers in honor of the victim, who is the mother of Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller's wife, Heidi.
"On behalf of the Black and Miller families, I would like to thank the South Salt Lake Police Department for the professionalism and integrity they have shown during their investigation of this tragic crime that has deeply affected all of us," Miller said in a statement released Wednesday. "In addition, the outpouring of love and support from family, friends and the community truly is making a difference for us. We appreciate your thoughts, prayers and kindness."
The Utah Jazz are part of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.
Reaction came from within the Jazz organization as well.
"(Our) thoughts and prayers go out to the Miller family," Jazz team captain Deron Williams said Wednesday. "The world we live in is messed up, and things like this shouldn't happen but they do. Everybody should be with their family."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was also solemn while speaking of the tragedy. "It's a terrible thing to have to deal with, I'm sure," Sloan said. "Our hearts go out to the Miller family and Heidi and her family."
Sherry Black's body was first discovered by her husband, Earl, who called 911. The 64-year-old woman was lying on the floor of the business "with an obvious stab wound," said South Salt Lake police spokesman Gary Keller.
She and her husband shared the business, B&W Billiards and Books, at 3466 S. 700 East. The business is adjacent to their home.
Keller said police are asking for the community's help on this case. Anyone who was traveling on 700 East near 3466 South between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday that may have seen anything suspicious is asked to call 801-840-4000.
Keller said South Salt Lake police have had help from the Utah Attorney General's Office and the state crime lab.
Black's sister, Debbie Waycasy, said her sister and brother-in-law had been married since high school and had a very loving relationship.
"They had everything before them to live for," she said. "I can't imagine what either of them has been through."
Black's brother, Jim Waycasy, said he is unaware of anyone who would want to kill his sister. He described her as likable and a grandmother who was very involved with her family. He said her business mostly involved book sales online. He never heard her talk about troublesome business or personal relationships.
"She's been selling books for 10 years. She would visit every (Deseret Industries) every morning, buy books for a quarter and sell them on Amazon.com." He said Black and her husband had to add on to their house when her collection of books outgrew the space they had.
Black's online sales at B&W Collector Books on Amazon.com includes a listing of hundreds of books. Many are of interest to an LDS audience but the overall collection includes a broad range of topics. One standout is a hardback copy of "The Grapes of Wrath" listed for $2,750. A few books approach the $300 mark but most are well under $100.
Salt Lake bookseller Ken Sanders, who has been in the rare book business for more than 30 years, knew Black professionally. He said she was "industrious" and would work hard to locate rare finds, but he couldn't believe she would have been killed over a book.
"I don't think a book lover murdered Sherry Black," he said. "Book lovers don't do these untoward things. I would imagine a ne'er-do-well drug-doer went in there looking for something to steal. This doesn't happen in the book trade. Period."
He said it's an industry that is built on trust, but that it has its "dark side," especially as the price of some LDS books has risen to six figures.
"They can be worth a lot of money," he said. "But whether it was something random or whether she was targeted, I don't have a clue. It's just so bizarre."
Black's sister said, "There was nothing to insinuate that kind of crime in her life or in her business of in any way, shape or form."
Sanders said Black's death has led customers to call with questions and has left him and his staff reeling. Generally, the worst crimes they encounter are random shoplifting incidents.
"We don't comprehend it," Sanders said. "It's hard to wrap your mind around that."
"Everyone I know in the trade who knew her that we talked to was horrified and saddened. It's such a tragedy," said Curt Bench, another Salt Lake book dealer.
"Sherry is quiet — you'll hear that from people. Very unassuming and kind and friendly, though, and really knew her stuff. She knew her books. She was successful at what we did and had a good reputation in the trade for being honest and having integrity."
Even in a neighborhood that business owners say has seen a recent spike in criminal activity, Black's death has been a shock. Jim Rollins owns the Beltone Hearing Aid Center, which is located on 3300 South around the corner from the Black's store.
Rollins said he has owned the business for four years and always thought it to be a quiet area in a good location. But he said there have been a number of "smash and grab" robberies in the neighborhood as of late.
"About the last two months, it's like all the sudden something happened," he said. "I'd say once a week there are cops in front of people's businesses when I'm driving into work in the morning. Something changed."
Rollins said his own business was broken into about two weeks ago and that, combined with the news of Black's death, has them taking further security precautions.
"We don't know what happened," he said. "It makes me think, you know, is it something that was similar to what was going on here? Somebody walking in to do a quick robbery and something went wrong? It's a little scary."
Linda Luchetti, senior vice president for communications with the Larry H. Miller Group, said a question about whether a reward will be offered to help bring a suspect to police has not yet been answered.
It was not immediately known whether Black's business was open or if anyone else was present around the time of the fatal stabbing.
Neighbors said the Blacks' shop carried rare books, LDS-themed books as well as pool tables, custom knives and other items.5 comments on this story
Funeral plans have not yet been announced.
Contributing: Carole Mikita, Molly Farmer