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

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 7:14 p.m. MDT

Black was wearing the same clothes he had been wearing three days earlier when he allegedly kidnapped Sierra from her home and took her to the burned-out field. At some point, Black apparently bent down on his knees in the field, police said. Bigelow was keen enough to recognize the ashes and soot on Black's clothing and make the connection.

Sierra's body and clothing also had soot from the field on them, according to the charges.

Later, forensics tests were conducted and prosecutors say Black's DNA matched DNA found on Sierra's body.

If Bigelow had not investigated the stolen vehicle call at the attempted bank robbery, Gill said the case may still be unsolved.

Diamond concurred. If not for Bigelow's ability to "connect the dots" and recognize that the charcoal on Black's pants could have come from the murder scene, "This crime (investigation) could have gone a totally different direction."

"We could have booked him into jail and never realized he was our murder suspect," Diamond said.

Black had lived in the neighborhood for about 10 years. His wife and children are active in their LDS ward and attend church services with the Newbold family. Although police said Black attended the same church, the bishop of the ward said Black is not LDS and had only attended a few church functions over the years.

The Blacks, Newbolds, and the entire neighborhood have been devastated by the recent events, Bishop Vaughn Shosted said.

Sierra's parents were notified about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday of the arrest and charges. It took them a minute to recognize Black, Diamond said, but eventually they did.

"They were shocked and saddened at the same time," he said.

Whether Sierra was picked at random or had been stalked, or whether Black had ever been inside the Newbold house before, were all questions still being investigated Tuesday, according to Gill.

In Sierra's neighborhood Tuesday — where pink and purple ribbons are still tied around every tree, mailbox, street sign and light pole lining the streets and stuffed animals are placed at the corner of Sierra's house as a memorial — residents reacted to news of the arrest with shock, anger and relief.

"I want capital punishment to take its course. I want it to be swift and I want it to be short," Cora Jcowski said. “He’s not human. Let him be gone. Let him be off this planet.”

Phillip Carpenter, who lives next to Black, said the news of the arrest was disturbing.

“He was sleeping 20 feet away from my bedroom, yeah. It's a little odd," he said. "It's scary not knowing who your neighbors are.”

“We have kids that we haven’t been letting out of the house,” said neighbor Ruby Farnsworth, who along with her six kids hosted Sierra at her house the night before the girl was killed. “I’m just happy that it is over. I’m just so happy.”

She described Black as a “monster,” as did an angry Tyler Gaisford.

“What kind of monster can break into someone’s house, and then rape a girl and then drown her, and then move on from it?” Gaisford said. “He’s lucky the cops have him.”

Linda Hunter said police seemed to thoroughly investigate her neighborhood.

"They checked our grounds twice and interviewed us twice and checked my son because he's 46 years old and lives at home," she said. "As good as the police were at checking things out, we were scared because my 17-year-old granddaughter is living with us." 

Diamond also had praise for his detectives Tuesday.

"They kept their perspective broad so they didn't miss anything. They were able to connect the dots," the chief said. "This is a good day in the fact we've been able to start the justice process."

Diamond also thanked the Newbold family for their cooperation and patience. "They didn't know any more than what the media knew," he said.

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