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New DNA technology may find new clues in Sherry Black killing



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SOUTH SALT LAKE — Police here are exploring a new avenue for possible clues in the death of Sherry Black, the mother-in-law of Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller.

Earlier this month, Sorenson Forensics was certified to use a new test that determines a person's ethnicity based on their DNA, said South Salt Lake police detective Gary Keller.

Detectives would like to use that new technology in the Sherry Black investigation.

"We already know that we're dealing with a male; and at the crime scene, we believe this male received a cut, possibly to his hand," Keller said.

Black, a 64-year-old book dealer, was found dead at the family's business, B&W Billiards and Books, 3466 S. 700 East, on Nov. 30, 2010.

Last month, police revealed that blood DNA from the suspect had been collected from the crime scene. The blood was believed to be from the hand of Black's killer.

The Sorenson DNA test investigators want to run on the evidence was originally designed as an ancestry test. By analyzing the blood, scientists will be able to know what Black's killer may look like.

"There are similar genetic ancestry tests, but none that target the forensic market and forensic-type specimens -- that is the key," said Lars Mourtinsen, with Sorenson Forensics.

Mourtinsen says the DNA can trace ancestry from five population groups: African, Asian, Indian subcontinent, indigenous Americans and Western Europeans.

"If it comes up that they're 100 percent black, sub-Saharan African, then you can infer they have darker hair, darker complexion, dark eyes," Mourtinsen explained.

Once the DNA sample in the Black case is submitted, it will take about 60 days to get the results.

Since 2006, Sorenson Forensics has been responsible for solving several high profile cold cases in Utah.

Last year, the company helped Salt Lake police make an arrest in the 20-year-old homicide of a woman whose body was found under the old North Temple viaduct near 400 West.

In 2007, Sorenson helped solve the 1974 murder of a BYU coed whose body was found in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

As for Black's murder, anyone with information is asked to call police at 801-412-3633.

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Story written with contributions from Pat Reavy and Sandra Yi.

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