SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A man has been arrested in the death a 6-year-old Utah girl after authorities say he sneaked into her home through a sliding glass door in the middle of the night, then raped and killed the child.
Terry Lee Black, 41, a neighbor of the girl who attends the same Mormon church as her family, has been charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape of a child, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Tuesday.
Police in West Jordan, about 15 miles south of Salt Lake City, say Sierra Newbold’s body was found June 26 in a canal near her home.
According to a probable cause affidavit, the child’s mother last saw her at about 10:30 p.m. the night before. On the morning of June 26, the woman told police she noticed a sliding glass door in the family’s home was open and the girl wasn’t in her bed.
Authorities mounted a search and soon found the girl’s pink pajamas and undergarments in a field a short distance away from the home, according to court documents.
Her body was then found floating face down in a nearby canal. An autopsy revealed the girl was sexually assaulted and strangled but the official cause of death was drowning.
Black was arrested on June 29 after robbing a Wells Fargo bank, authorities said.
West Jordan Police Chief Douglas Diamond said Black had stolen a car earlier in the day and drove it to the bank. Diamond said when he left the bank after the robbery, Black attempted to get into the stolen car, but was confronted by a friend of the vehicle’s owner who just happened to be in the parking lot.
Black then fled on foot and was arrested nearby, Diamond said.
He said alert police officers then noticed Black lived in an apartment near the canal where the young girl’s body was found, and that debris on his clothing appeared similar to debris found in the field where the child’s clothing was discovered.
Gil said Newbold’s DNA was then found on Black’s body.
Diamond called Black’s arrest “divine intervention.”
“This crime could have gone a totally different direction had it not been for (the detective) being able to see beyond the obvious and connect the dots,” Diamond said. “We could have just booked him into jail and never realized he was our murder suspect.”
Black remained held Tuesday on $2 million bond. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney. A telephone message left at his home on Tuesday wasn’t returned.
Associated Press writer Brian Skoloff contributed to this report.
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