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After 2 years, Miller family still hopeful killing will be solved

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 9:07 a.m. MDT

Earl Black gets a hug from Gail Miller as  family and friends of Sherry Black gather at the bookstore on 3466 South 700 East where Sherry was murdered two years ago and post flyers throughout the South Salt Lake Neighborhood Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Earl Black gets a hug from Gail Miller as family and friends of Sherry Black gather at the bookstore on 3466 South 700 East where Sherry was murdered two years ago and post flyers throughout the South Salt Lake Neighborhood Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SOUTH SALT LAKE — Greg and Heidi Miller say it's too painful and emotionally draining to think about it all the time.

But on the second anniversary of the death of Heidi's mother, Sherry Black, they are still seeking closure to the unsolved crime.

"I am very confident that eventually we'll get an answer," Heidi Miller said Thursday. "It's painful to keep going through this. … (Making an arrest) won't bring her back, but at least we can find closure to that part and heal."

On Nov. 30, 2010, Black, 64, the mother-in-law of Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller, was found stabbed to death inside her bookstore, B&W Billiards and Books, 3466 S. 700 East. To date, there is no known motive for the killing and police have not identified a suspect or a person of interest in the case.

Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller and his wife, Heidi, speak about Sherry Black's death and this week's second anniversary of the tragic homicide, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News) Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller and his wife, Heidi, speak about Sherry Black's death and this week's second anniversary of the tragic homicide, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News)

The only clues are an Armani Exchange men's belt that was left at the crime scene with a waist measurement of approximately 36-38 inches, and a sticker on the back of the buckle with the number "323." Detectives also found blood that DNA testing has determined came from a male.

South Salt Lake police detective Gary Keller said investigators still put that DNA through a national database weekly to check for anyone with a matching profile who has been arrested anywhere in the country. But as of Thursday, there had been no matches. The blood, investigators believe, came from a cut on the suspect, possibly on his hand.

Today, the Millers — along with about a dozen family members and friends, including Gail Miller, the widow of Larry H. Miller — will canvass the neighborhood where Black lived and worked. They'll start with her house and post flyers, letting those in the area know that they are still looking for answers. Recently, the family also conducted a direct mail campaign, sending flyers to homes in that area.

Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller and his wife, Heidi, speak about Sherry Black's death and this week's second anniversary of the tragic homicide, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News) Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller and his wife, Heidi, speak about Sherry Black's death and this week's second anniversary of the tragic homicide, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News)

Detectives believe Black's killer was from, or still lives in, that neighborhood, Keller said. That's why they're supporting the Millers' efforts to keep Sherry Black's story alive in the public eye.

As part of the new campaign, the Millers have increased the ongoing $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible to $100,000 — but only until Dec. 31.

"We've had $50,000 out there for a couple of years and unfortunately it hasn't really helped us move things forward as much as we'd like. We're hoping that if somebody out there has information that they've holding back on that this would incentivize them to step forward quickly," Greg Miller said. "Our plan has been to do everything we can all along the way to find out who did it and bring him to justice.

"A $50,000 reward hasn't made that happen, so we're hopeful that doubling the reward for a short time will shake something loose."

Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller and his wife, Heidi, speak about Sherry Black's death and this week's second anniversary of the tragic homicide, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News) Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller and his wife, Heidi, speak about Sherry Black's death and this week's second anniversary of the tragic homicide, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News)

Miller is hoping that enough time has passed that someone who possibly had information about the slaying, and was loyal at one time to the attacker, may now have a change of heart.

"(He) may not have as strong an alliance to the killer as they once did and may be willing to step forward and collect the reward money in exchange for helping us find out who did it," he said.

Sherry Black had between 60,000 and 100,000 books in her store. Her store contained a wide collection of books about the Southwest, children's books and LDS books, which were the store's biggest sellers.

On the one-year anniversary of Black's death, her husband, Earl Black, announced plans to reopen the store. But Greg Miller said that proved to be a bit overwhelming for him, in part because his wife was the real keeper of all the books, and in part because of the memories the books held. When an opportunity presented itself recently to sell the collection, Earl Black decided to take it in an effort to help him gain some closure.

Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller and his wife, Heidi, speak about Sherry Black's death and this week's second anniversary of the tragic homicide, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News) Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller and his wife, Heidi, speak about Sherry Black's death and this week's second anniversary of the tragic homicide, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News)

"He has told me it is very difficult to be (in the bookstore)," Miller said.

But for the most part, Heidi Miller said, her father is doing better than she expected, though this is typically a painful time of year for him. The entire family went through a phase where all they thought about was the killer being arrested and that the phone call notifying them of the arrest would come at any moment.

"It's not healthy, it's not something we can sustain emotionally to hope at that level every day," Greg Miller said. "We're just going on with life. That's what we've got to do. We're hoping one day it will come."

The family is still confident that the person responsible will be brought to justice one day. But they aren't going to dwell on that event. They aren't going to let the killer take any more time away from their lives by them worrying about him, they said. But they do expect they'll receive that phone call.

Sherry Black (, ) Sherry Black (, )

"It will be shocking in a positive way when that call comes," he said.

South Salt Lake police and the Millers talk with each other about every other month, Greg Miller said. He said there is information he believes they have that they aren't sharing. But in the interest of justice, he's OK with that.

"We're generally encouraged by what we hear from them, and my sense is they're still actively pursuing several leads," he said. "My observation is when they make an arrest, they want it to translate into a conviction, They don't want to have the case thrown out on a technicality. So they're being very thorough and very deliberate every step of the way."

The Millers hope that if anyone has any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, that they call police at 801-840-4000. Texts can also be sent to CRIMES, or 274637.

Greg Miller said an arrest isn't just about bringing his mother-in-law's killer to justice, but is also about protecting the community. He wanted the public to know that he was billed for 32 hours of work by the crews who were hired to clean up the crime scene in the bookstore.

Earl Black hugs his daughter Heidi Miller as family and friends of Sherry Black, Earl's wife and Heidi's mother, gather at a bookstore on 3466 S. 700 East. Sherry Black was killed two years ago in front of the bookstore, which she owned. The family posted flyers throughout the South Salt Lake neighborhood Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Black's killer. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Earl Black hugs his daughter Heidi Miller as family and friends of Sherry Black, Earl's wife and Heidi's mother, gather at a bookstore on 3466 S. 700 East. Sherry Black was killed two years ago in front of the bookstore, which she owned. The family posted flyers throughout the South Salt Lake neighborhood Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Black's killer. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

"I can only imagine what the scene would look like to require that kind of man-hours to clean it up," he said. "But I think it speaks to the brutality of the crime and that the person who killed Sherry is still out there, and if he can do it to, Sherry he can do it to somebody else.

"And it could be your mother or your daughter or your sister who is the next victim."

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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