The Justice Files: Cold case murder suspect remained under the police radar

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Science and good old fashion police work may have helped bring an end to a decade-old murder.

Saturday, Unified Police arrested 29-year old Adam Durborow for the murder of Sherry Black.

According to jail records, Durborow confessed but has yet to be charged.  His criminal past which is minimal showed no signs of violent behavior.

“My hope is criminals know they can’t escape from their DNA no matter how safe you play it,” said Jason Jensen a private investigator and co-founder of the Utah Cold Case Coalition.

It appeared that DNA helped solve the cold case. In 2010 Black was stabbed and beaten at her bookstore near 4300 South and 700 East in South Salt Lake.

Police found DNA and a belt both suspected of belonging to Black’s killer.

The case remained unsolved and South Salt Lake police turned to Parabon Nanolabs which helped develop a composite of the suspect.  South Salt Lake Police were the lead investigating agency but in 2018 the department turned the case over to Unified Police which has a cold case unit.

Saturday, Unified Police said they made a connection with the DNA they had.

“This morning, we made an arrest in the Sherry Black cold case,” said Sheriff Rosie Rivera with Unified Police.

Durborow is adopted according to multiple sources and his adopted father was having a difficult time understanding why his son was in jail for murder.

“I don’t understand,” said Joseph Durborow.  “There’s nothing I can give you. Obviously, it’s very difficult for our family and we’re just trying to deal with that right now.”

On a social media website called True Crime Utah several of Durborow’s posting were found.

Durborow’s social media name is Jace Ranting, according to True Crime Utah.  Durborow posted numerous and sometimes graphic images.  On the two-year anniversary of Black’s murder he posted a cartoon picture of a murdered woman in a bathtub.

According to a spokesman for Granite School District, Durborow was admitted to the district’s YESS program. The district’s website indicated that YESS is designed to help troubled youth. Spokesman Ben Horsley said Durborow was part of the program his junior and senior years.  According to Durborow/Ranting Facebook, he attended Wasatch High School.

As an adult, in 2011 and 2012 Durborow was cited for petty criminal offenses including theft and shoplifting. After those two misdemeanors, Durborow was never in trouble with the law. As a result, his DNA never entered a database that is mandatory for anyone arrested and jailed.

Records showed Durborow lived along 700 East just a few blocks from Sherry Black’s bookstore.

“It’s quite possible that he walked right by the bookstore and was familiar with it,” said Jensen.  

After his arrest, a probable cause statement filed at the Salt Lake County jail Durborow ‘confessed to the homicide’.  If true, it’s a crime that is unusual for Durborow. Jensen said there’s reasons why a suspect can suddenly turn violent.

“Oftentimes things escalate get out of control real fast,” said Jensen. “(If he) tries to escape, someone identifies him. It’s a split-second decision.”

But it’s DNA and the new advances in forensics that possibly helped detectives find a suspect.  Last year, the head of the cold case coalition spoke about GED match, an ancestry data base used to find suspects by tracking family DNA.

“If you have an unknown culprit and is not in one of the criminal databases, you can still be found,” said Porter in 2019. “Behind the scenes, there have been dozens of cases that have been solved using this publicly available database.” The cold case coalition now operates the nation’s first non-profit DNA laboratory called Intermountain Forensics. It uses various techniques to process DNA at a fraction of the cost.

“It can cost thousands and thousands of dollars to test one sample,” said Francine Bardole who owns Cold Case Solutions and Resources.

The former West Jordan police forensics specialist said he arrest was not an easy find for detectives assigned to the case.  And she said the fact that Durburow was adopted made it even more difficult.   She said once they got a lead on a possible suspect through the DNA search, police then had to go through adoption records and interview possible family members. She compared it to finding a needle in a haystack.

“They probably had to do a lot of work and a lot of footwork investigation to get to the point where they are now,” said Bardole. “So you got to hand it to them. It takes a lot of effort.”

Durborow is currently being held without bail at the Salt Lake County jail. The Salt Lake district attorney’s office is expected to screen the case for possible capitol murder charges.

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