A Utah man suspected of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 6-year-old girl in 2012 pleaded guilty on Thursday, PEOPLE confirms.
Terry Lee Black, 47, entered Alford pleas to felony charges of aggravated murder, child kidnapping and rape of a child in Salt Lake County in the death of Sierra Newbold.
An Alford plea is a kind of guilty plea in which the accused acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to convict but does not admit to the allegations against them.
Black, a foreman in a local mine, was sentenced to 65 years to life in prison. His attorney could not be reached for comment.
“I will be at every parole hearing to make sure my daughter has a voice and that Mr. Black is not paroled,” Sierra’s mother, Kathy, said during her victim impact statement, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Brad Newbold, Sierra’s dad, also spoke at the sentencing in similarly emotional terms. “Our family has never and will never be the same,” he said. “There is such a hole in my heart.”
Authorities believe Black kidnapped Sierra in the middle of the night from her West Jordan home on June 26, 2012. Her mother, who reported her disappearance, says she last saw her alive in her bed. Subsequent investigation showed someone entering the home about 3 a.m. through a sliding back door and leaving about 10 minutes later apparently carrying something.
Sierra’s beaten and strangled body was discovered hours later near her home in a nearby canal. She had drowned, and her body showed signs of strangulation and sexual assault.
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Black became a suspect three days later when he was arrested in an unrelated crime.
A perceptive officer then noticed that there was soot and debris on Black’s clothing and his hands that was similar to the materials that were in the field where Sierra’s clothing was found, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill tells PEOPLE.
“It was that piece that allowed that to happen, and subsequently we were able to do search warrants to match the DNA and connect him back to the murder of the victim,” Gill explains. “His DNA matched the DNA found on the victim’s body.”
Prior to the sentencing, 3rd District Court Judge Doug Hogan found Black competent to stand trial — the result of forced medication, Gill says. Black was originally found not competent in 2016.
Once the judge ruled that his trial could proceed, Gill says they met with Sierra’s family about a resolution to the case. “Here is an opportunity where he is competent and we worked out a resolution which will keep him in for 65 years before he has an opportunity for parole,” he says.
Sierra’s slaying devastated the community, he says.
“This was a horrible tragedy in our community,” Gill says. “It shook the fiber of our community. He is where he needs to be and where he belongs for this absolute terrible crime. And the resiliency, the patience and the courage of this family I have never witnessed that ever in my life.”