Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2012 Issue

One Year Later, Family Still Seeks Answer to Bookseller's Murder

Blackbelt

Belt left at murder scene has logo AX on front, a sticker with number 323 on back.

One year after the horrific murder of a Salt Lake City bookseller, her family is still seeking answers. Most particularly, they are trying to find the person responsible for killing well-liked bookseller Sherry Black. On the anniversary of her death, November 30, the family, including her husband, Earl Black, and daughter, Heidi Miller, held a public graveside memorial in her honor. At that time they again appealed to anyone who might know something to please come forward.

The motive, as well as the identity of the killer, remain a mystery. Sherry Black was born in Provo, Utah, the state where she lived all of her life, in 1946. She was married in 1965 to Earl Black, who set up a billiards supply shop in Salt Lake City. Sherry Black loved books, which led her to ease into the bookselling business about ten years ago. She would pick up books at various sales and resell them, primarily on the internet, but also in the shop she now shared with her husband's business – B&W Billiards & Books. In time, she built up an inventory of tens of thousands of books, requiring an addition to the couple's home-based business. The vast majority of the books Mrs. Black handled were inexpensive, though an occasional title would be valued in the thousands of dollars. It was not the type of bookshop one would expect a well-healed book thief to target.

At some time in the morning or early afternoon of November 30, 2010, someone entered the bookshop where Mrs. Black was at work. The shop is in a somewhat out of the way residential location, where unscheduled foot traffic was at best a rarity. Someone could readily have entered unnoticed. There were no signs of forced entry. Precisely what happened next is unknown, but Sherry Black was severely beaten and stabbed multiple times. She died of blood loss before being discovered by her husband that afternoon. If robbery was the motive, there was little evidence of it. Aside from a bookshop of this nature not being a particularly inviting target, there were no obvious signs of anything missing. It is possible that some books were taken, as Sherry Black kept her inventory in her head, not on paper or in a computer. However, none of her family members were aware of her having something very special and finding it was missing. There was cash untouched in the cash register, and other obvious things of value that were not taken.

If robbery was not the motive, no one among her family or friends appears to know of any other reason someone would kill Mrs. Black. Along with children's books and modern literature, she handled Mormon books, and Mormon items have, at times over the years, been involved in various intrigues, even violence. Mark Hoffman pleaded guilty to killing two people in a scheme involving Mormon forgeries in 1987 (he has been safely ensconced in prison ever since). Shortly after her murder, reports surfaced that Mrs. Black had unknowingly purchased some stolen Mormon books from a gang member, and reportedly had been threatened. She returned the books to their rightful owners. However, there have been no further reports relating to this incident, nor anything else suggesting who might be responsible for the crime. If the police have any ideas, they are not saying. Their statements to the public indicate they are still baffled by who would have done this.

Rare Book Monthly

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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth, "a St Mary's schoolboy," Baltimore, April 4, 1914. $6,000 to $9,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Last Words of Joseph Smith. Autograph Letter Signed from a Mormon disciple, conveying a contemporary account of the Prophet's final words, Nauvoo, July 27, 1844. $10,000 to $15,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
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