'Divine intervention' helped police solve case of slain 6-year-old Sierra Newbold, chief says

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

West Jordan Police Lt. Kyle Shepherd, left, detective James Bigelow and detective Chad Hahn attend a press conference announcing the murder and child rape charges against Terry Lee Black in connection with the death of 6-year-old Sierra Newbold in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. Bigelow's "sixth sense" and good police work helped solve the case.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Related Story: Sierra Lynn Newbold (2005 - 2012) Obituary

SALT LAKE CITY — Outstanding police work, some lucky breaks, a strong hunch and possibly even divine intervention led to the arrest of a man accused of murdering 6-year-old Sierra Newbold.

"Miracles do happen," said West Jordan Police Chief Douglas Diamond. "I'm not going to say it's not divine intervention. I myself believe it is divine intervention."

Terry Lee Black, 41, who lives in the young girl's West Jordan neighborhood, was charged Tuesday with capital murder, child kidnapping and rape of a child. All are first-degree felonies.

"We're very glad that this crime has been solved, that we've been able to arrest somebody for the death of Sierra Newbold," Diamond said.

Investigators say Sierra was taken from her West Jordan home in the middle of the night on June 26.

Black entered the Newbold home, 2383 W. 7095 South, at 3:05 a.m. on June 26 through a sliding glass door. A home security camera recorded someone leaving the house, "apparently carrying something" at 3:13 a.m., according to the charges filed in 3rd District Court.

Kathy Newbold called police about 7:30 a.m. after she noticed the sliding door was open, then discovered that her daughter was not in her bed.

Sierra had been sexually assaulted, strangled and then drowned in a nearby canal, an autopsy determined.

But how Black was caught is nothing short of a miracle.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill had high praise for West Jordan police Tuesday, particularly detective James Bigelow who headed the investigation under "enormous pressure" from the public. His work, combined with an unbelievable set of chance circumstances, led to Black's arrest.

"This was the epitome of good police work. They connected all the dots," Gill said.

On June 29, three days after Sierra's body was found, police say Black stole a Jeep Grand Cherokee from the Deseret Industries parking lot at 7166 S. Redwood Road. The vehicle's owner told her boss about the stolen vehicle, according to court documents.

Black then allegedly entered Wells Fargo Bank, 7869 S. Redwood Road, and attempted to rob the bank of $100. Meanwhile, the boss who was told about the stolen vehicle happened to go to the bank at the same time to make a deposit and spotted her employee's missing Jeep. She confronted Black in the parking lot.

The woman "told him to get away from the car," charging documents state. Black walked away and the woman took a picture of him with her cell phone.

When police were called to the bank for the stolen Jeep, Bigelow — realizing the bank was in the general area of Sierra's home — decided he needed to be there, too.

"He has that sixth sense that a lot of cops have," Diamond said. "As he put it, when he heard this call come, the hair stood up on the back of his neck and he knew he needed to respond.

"How he knew that, we may never know."

When Black was stopped by police, they learned that he lived in an apartment complex near the canal where Sierra's body was found.

Then, another set of chance circumstances and Bigelow's sharp eyes helped police get one step closer to unraveling the case.

Bigelow noticed that Black had debris on the knees of his pants that looked like it could have come from black soot in a field where Sierra's pajamas were found. A fire had burned the field and two homes in the neighborhood just days before Sierra's death.

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