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SOUTH SALT LAKE — Sherry Black had about 100,000 books in her store. And at some point, she had held every single one of them.
Her bookstore, B&W Billiards and Books, 3466 S. 700 East, has been closed for a year since she was found brutally killed inside the store on Nov. 30, 2010.
Now, as family members mark the one-year anniversary of her death on Wednesday, her husband is preparing to reopen the store, possibly by the beginning of the year. He admits he thought about selling the business. But because of his wife's love of books, "I just knew I had to keep it," Earl Black said.
In an effort to remind the public that the person who killed Sherry Black is still at large, Earl Black and their daughter, Heidi Miller, allowed the media inside the closed bookstore Monday for the first time since their loved one's death.
It was a year ago that Black, 64, the mother-in-law of Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller, was found stabbed to death. Despite high-profile billboards on I-15, a $50,000 reward and a mention on America's Most Wanted, investigators were still seeking tips Monday that would help them solve the case.
One of the clues left at the crime scene on the day of the killing includes an Armani Exchange men's belt 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.
Reopening Sherry Black's book business
There were no signs of a crime scene inside the small building Monday. Rather, there was the warm charm of a small ma and pa store with a wide collection of books about the Southwest, children's books and LDS books, which were the store's biggest sellers, according to Earl Black.
Framed pictures of Sherry Black were hung on the wall and on bookshelves. A small notebook that Black wrote in is now kept in a glass case next to the front counter. The book is opened to a page with Black's handwriting from September of 2009. In the small note, Black talks about a birthday trip she took with her family to Shanghai.
"I don't remember ever having a nicer birthday," she wrote.
The notebook was discovered by Black's family after her death.
Monday, Earl Black talked about the beginning of the bookstore and how it started out as Billiards and Bowling Supply in 1974. "As we progressed through the years, Sherry's love of books turned into a bookstore, and she pushed me out," he said jokingly.
Sherry's love for books started when she was just a little girl and would go to the library and sit in a circle and have books read to her.
"She told me she would go to the library every day, read it, then go back the next day and get another book," Heidi Miller recalled.
She said her mother especially loved children's books. But she also liked the classics, including Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and "To Kill A Mockingbird."
The Blacks lived in the house adjacent to the bookstore. Earl Black said it wasn't uncommon for his wife to spend most of the day in the store.
"She'd get up in the morning and come out here in her pajamas, turn on the computer and start looking at stuff. She'd spend all day here," he said.
Even though he is in the store almost every day preparing for its reopening, Black admitted it was hard to walk into it at first, knowing what had happened. But Miller said ultimately, the family knew that it was also a "bookstore filled with love" that her mother had put so much effort into building.
The hardest part about preparing to reopen the store is figuring out where everything went.
"She did most of the work before as far as organization, now I have to learn about books. I know a lot about books, but she was the brains," Earl Black said.
"She had it all in her head," Miller added.
Neighbors still living in fear
The past year has been difficult for neighbors too. Without an arrest, they've lived in fear.
You wonder if he's going to come back. You don't know if he's from this neighborhood or from somewhere else.
–Mary Wade, neighbor
"You wonder if he's going to come back. You don't know if he's from this neighborhood or from somewhere else," said Mary Wade.
Wade lives next door to the Blacks. She said Sherry Black was a kind woman everyone loved. That's why she and other neighbors think Sherry's murder was a crime of opportunity.
"She should have been able to live her life to the fullest. She deserved it. She didn't deserve this heinous act that was done on her at all," said Aixa Burlson.
They want to see Sherry's killer caught soon, for the sake of her family and for a neighborhood that's never been the same since.
"The day it happened, it was like a darkness descended and it hasn't lifted yet," Wade said.
Still looking for answers
Neither family members nor police had any new information about the case to release Monday. A motive for the crime and whether books or anything else was taken is still part of the ongoing investigation. The cash register still had money in it when police arrived.
When asked about speculation whether Black's involvement with rare LDS books was a possible motive, South Salt Lake police officer Gary Keller said it was "one of many" theories being investigated.
Keller called the investigation into Black's death "very active."
Tips can be called to South Salt Lake police at 801-840-4000. You can also submit your tip anonymously at www.tipsoft.com or www.sherryblackinfo.com, or by texting SSLPD plus your message to 274637 (CRIMES).
A memorial will be held for Sherry Black on Wednesday at Wasatch Lawn Memorial, 3401 S. Highland Drive. In addition, a tree at this year's Festival of Trees is being donated in her name. The tree has a "traditions and memories" theme and will include her love of reading.
One of Sherry's favorite traditions was getting together with family over the Christmas season, Miller said. The family wanted to "keep her traditions and memories alive" this year.
"That's the part that's the hardest. We have such a love for the holidays and love getting together as a family, and this is the time I get angry when we should have her with us and she was just taken from us," Miller said
The family is asking anyone in the public who has information about the slaying to report it to police.
"This is a violent, brutal, awful person that needs to be caught before he does it to someone else's mother or grandmother or wife," said Miller, who described the past year as surreal. "We never in a million years would have thought this would happen to us."
Tips can be called to South Salt Lake police at 801-840-4000, or texts can be sent to CRIMES, or 274637.