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Family gathers to remember Sherry Black, seek help in solving killing

Miller family has offered $100,000 reward

SHARE Family gathers to remember Sherry Black, seek help in solving killing
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Heidi Miller, second from right, listens as her mother-in-law, Gail Miller, left, speaks at a memorial service for Heidi Miller’s mother, Sherry Black, at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. Sherry Black was killed in an unsolved homicide in 2010. Second from left is Greg Miller, son of Gail Miller and husband of Heidi, while at right is Earl Black, Heidi’s father and Sherry’s Black’s husband.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

MILLCREEK — Sherry Black didn’t have to do much to make holidays special for her family.

“They were the best,” said Heidi Miller, wiping away tears. “She just always made them so special — just being together, family meals, not a lot of specific traditions. The tradition was just being together and the love.”

On the anniversary of her mother’s death, Miller thanked family and friends huddled around Sherry Black’s headstone Saturday, candles in hand, while pleading with the public to help them find the person who killed her nine years ago.

“Thank you for coming on a Saturday, braving the cold,” Miller said softly into a microphone at a vigil honoring her mother. “It means so much to me and my dad. I just think it’s important after nine years to keep her in our memory, to think about her, to remember the good times we had with her, and show how much we miss her. I also think it’s important to keep it out there in the public, so anybody that knows anything, has any information about her murder might come forward.

“I think it’s important to remember that after nine years, her case still hasn’t been solved.”

Miller, flanked by her husband and father, wept as she talked about her mother, who was stabbed to death in her South Salt Lake business, B&W Billiards and Books, 3466 S. 700 East, on Nov. 30, 2010. Unified police detective Ben Pender attended the vigil and said they continue to work the case, which they share with South Salt Lake police.

“There is still a lot to do in the case, still a lot that we’re working on,” said Pender. “We are looking for the public’s help. I truly believe in this case that somebody does know something about this. And it’s a piece, a small piece, that we’re missing, and we just need somebody to come forward and provide us with that information so we can progress this case along.”

Miller said her mother didn’t leave her a long list of advice or memorable sayings.

“It was the way she lived,” Miller said. “And the way she would listen without judging. She was always there to listen. She was always available for those she loved. I don’t ever remember a time when she said, ‘I can’t. I don’t have time.’ She would always push things aside for family. That, and being independent, those were the greatest gifts she gave me.”

Miller’s oldest daughter, Courtney Hawks, and her mother-in-law, Gail Miller, also offered some memories and kind words about Black during the vigil.

“When I think of her I think of a sweet, gentle, loving person with no guile,” Gail Miller said through tears. “You’re carrying that on and I’m so proud of you.”

She said she hopes her daughter-in-law finds comfort in knowing that her mother lives on in her.

Hawks said she just missed spending time with her grandmother, who always made time for her family.

“She was always just so available. I remember, even as a little girl, calling her on the phone all the time, just wanting to talk to her,” Hawks said. “Anytime we’d ask to have a sleepover, it was always a yes. She’d always make it so fun.”

Hawks’ oldest daughter was 5 months old when Black was killed, but in the months before her death, Hawks asked for some sewing help.

“I really wanted to sew a bassinet,” she said. “My grandma was a really good seamstress, and we were probably up until midnight ... and she was just so happy to be so accommodating.”

Heidi Miller said there is a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of a suspect in the case. Anyone with a tip should contact Pender at bpender@updsl.org or 385-468-9816.

“I'm so grateful for the detectives who continue to work on her case,” Miller said. “Especially Ben Pender. ... I know he works relentlessly to solve this, and it means so much to me and all of my family. ... We encourage anybody who has any information to contact the Unified Police Department.”

Hawks said she is proud of how her mother has picked up the mantle from her grandmother, including starting the Sherry Black Foundation that provides “meaningful” help to the community. She’s begun helping her mom with the foundation’s work.

“When Mom died, we started the Sherry Black Foundation,” Heidi Miller said. “It’s a way to keep her memory alive and keep other families from having to go through what we’ve gone through with the case not being solved. ... Our purpose is to give law enforcement the tools and the knowledge, just the information, the resources they need to continue to solve crimes. ... We feel like we’ve made a difference.”

Miller said it is the small moments she misses most.

“It is everything,” she said, a tear sliding down her cheek. “The little things you go through, the things you want to share with your mom, the good and the bad, the hard things. My kids come to me now being the matriarch, but I still would have gone to my mom. I don’t have that now. It will always be hard.”

Miller and Hawks may have to continue to build a life without Black’s guidance and insight, but they still have her love to guide and sustain them.

“I think we all help each other,” Hawks said, glancing at her children who played on the other side of her grandmother’s headstone. “We all have our moments of sadness at different things. As time goes on, it’s not the constant sadness anymore, but things will trigger it for different people, and we’re all just kind of there for each other.”