WEST JORDAN — For nearly as long as Sierra Newbold was alive, the 6-year-old's family has waited to see if their neighbor charged with kidnapping her from her bedroom in the middle of the night, raping her and then murdering her would go to prison.
It finally happened on Thursday. A judge in West Jordan ordered Terry Lee Black, 47, to effectively spend the remainder of his life behind bars. But her parents and siblings said a gaping hole in their family will always remain.
"I miss Sierra every day," her sister Taylor wrote in a letter read aloud in court. She was just 5 years old when her older sister disappeared.
Sierra loved to dance and play soccer and was proud she had donated her hair twice for the charity Locks of Love, said her father, Brad Newbold.
"You gave me, my family, and many close friends a life sentence," Newbold told Black just before he was sentenced. "I will do everything in my power to make sure you get a life sentence and never see freedom again."
Black, who was housed in the Utah State Hospital for years, was allowed to enter Alford pleas to aggravated murder, child kidnapping and rape of a child — meaning he believes a jury would likely find him guilty of the crimes but he denies committing them.
Third District Judge Douglas Hogan sentenced him to at least 65 years and up to life in prison, moments after determining that Black was finally mentally competent to stand trial. The judge said he issued the maximum sentence because the victim and her family cannot be made whole.
"There's no way to fix this," Hogan said. "It's impossible."
Black has schizophrenia and another unspecified psychotic disorder, but now "has a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against him," Hogan wrote in the order finding him legally competent.
Dr. Paul Whitehead told the judge that Black takes antipsychotic medication that rationalizes his thought process, and an antidepressant, in part to reduce his anxiety about the case.
Since the murder, Black was repeatedly been found incompetent after multiple evaluations, meaning he legally could not understand the charges against him or communicate with his attorneys as they defended him in court. The judge in 2015 ordered he be committed to the Utah State Hospital.
Three years earlier, he was charged with sneaking through a sliding glass door into the Newbolds' West Jordan home at 3:05 a.m. on June 26, 2012, and was seen on a security camera carrying Sierra out of the home at 3:13 a.m. From there, the young child was raped, strangled and drowned in a nearby canal. DNA evidence later revealed Black was outside the Newbold home the night she was taken.
Black was arrested three days later after police say he robbed a West Jordan bank using a stolen car. Investigators said Black attended the same ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Newbolds and his apartment was near the canal where she was found.
Black was charged with aggravated murder, a capital offense, as well as child kidnapping and rape of a child, all first-degree felonies. As part of an agreement with prosecutors and in exchange for the guilty pleas, separate cases involving child sexual abuse of another neighbor girl, and others related to a robbery were dropped.
Black spoke very little during the hearing, replying "yes," when the judge asked if he wanted to move forward with the plea deal and responding "guilty" to each of the three charges.
Kathy Newbold, Sierra's mother, said she can't say she will ever forgive him. She questioned how he could have done such a thing to her young daughter, noting that he is a father. And she said he will likely one day ask to be released from prison on parole, seeking compassion.
Sierra's life had just begun when she was killed, her mother said. "Where is the compassion for her?"
After the hearing, prosecutors said evidence of the grisly crimes was strong, but they agreed to the deal allowing Black to deny committing them in order to prevent any further delays or any appeals of his convictions.7 comments on this story
"Competency is always a fluid issue," said Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Matthew Janzen, noting that if the case went to trial, it's possible Black could be evaluated again and deemed no longer legally competent.
"While he was presently competent, we made an effort to bring closure to this case for the family and resolve it," Janzen said.
The judge ordered Black to serve two sentences of at least 25 years and up to life on the aggravated murder and rape of a child charges, and at least 15 years to life on the child kidnapping count. Hogan ordered the sentences to run consecutively and granted Black credit for the time he has served since 2012.