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KSL Uncovers Disturbing Details Surrounding Cold Case Murder Suspect’s Childhood

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah – A young man named Adam Durborow posted a troubling picture on his personal Facebook page on Nov. 30, 2012.

It showed a cartoon character holding a blood-stained saw along with the caption, “Don’t upset me I’m running out of places to hide the bodies.”

The post came exactly two years to the day after Sherry Black turned up dead in her book store, B&W Billiards & Books, 3466 S. 700 East. South Salt Lake police were flummoxed at the time, having little evidence aside from a bit of blood, some hand and finger prints, and a designer men’s belt.

But over the weekend, Unified Police arrested Durborow, 29, on suspicion of Black’s murder. A probable cause statement filed with the Salt Lake County Jail said only that DNA collected from Durborow last week matched the profile of the DNA collected from the scene back in 2010.

KSL has since uncovered multiple ties between Adam Durborow and his family to the neighborhood in which Sherry Black lived, worked and ultimately died.

Joseph Paul Photography

Adam Durborow’s adoptive father, Joseph Durborow, came to Utah from New Jersey in the early 1980s. Joseph was the oldest of the children in his own family, which included two brothers and two sisters. The Durborows settled into a home on the corner of 500 East and Penney Avenue in South Salt Lake, just around the block from the home of Sherry Black.

Joseph Durborow would eventually marry and move to a home at 535 N. 1025 West in Orem. By 1999, Joseph Durborow had established a photography studio in the basement. His photography page was published online under the name Joseph Paul.

“This site’s purpose is to showcase young models,” a statement on the website read in 1999. “All of our models are under the age of 14 and we have contracted both male and female models. We have a particularly good selection of ethnic models to work with.”

The first of those “ethnic models,” according to another statement on the website in 2002, was one of Joseph Durborow’s own foster children.

“The Young Models Resource began with Joseph Paul advertising his daughter as a model,” the site read. “It expanded to include his daughter’s friends and, as word spread of what we were doing, many others.”

Word even reached Orem police. Child sex crimes investigators there became concerned something more sinister might be lurking beneath the veneer of Joseph Durborow’s child-focused, at-home photo studio. They were unable to prove it. A detective who worked the case in 2002 told KSL parents whose children had modeled for Durborow said he’d operated above board, requiring contracts and even a parent to be present during photoshoots.

Operation Hamlet

On Aug. 9, 2002, the United States District Court in the District of Eastern California unsealed an indictment against 15 people, accusing them of conspiring to create and share images of child pornography. The indictment was the result of a 10-month investigation involving agencies from both the U.S. and Europe.

One of the targets of the probe, which was dubbed “Operation Hamlet,” had used the online handle “Lazarus.” According to the charging documents, an email address for Lazarus tracked back to an internet service provider account registered to Joseph Durborow.

Orem police served a search warrant on Joseph Durborow’s Orem home just hours after the unsealing of the indictment. They arrived at 2 a.m., swept through the house and seized Durborow’s computers.

Additional charging documents later filed in federal court said Durborow told detectives he’d used a hidden camera located in a changing room at his photo studio to capture images of the underage models. Durborow had then offered those images for sale through his website.

“Durborow admitted to exchanging images of child pornography with others,” the federal charging document read.

Family in crisis

The investigators noted in the 2002 charging documents that Joseph Durborow had 10 adoptive children living in the home at the time of his arrest. Though they were not named, it’s likely one of them was then 10-year-old Adam Durborow.

Joseph Durborow ended up pleading guilty to felony charges in both federal and state courts. He received a sentence of 10 years in prison on the federal charges, as well as two terms of one- 15 years in prison and three terms of three years to life in prison on the state charges.

State social workers, operating under the belief that Durborow’s wife had been unaware of the illicit photography occurring beneath the family’s roof, elected not to take any of the Durborow children into protective custody.

“They’ve been through a traumatic situation, so we don’t want to traumatize them further by moving them out,” Utah Department of Human Services spokeswoman Carol Sisco told KSL in 2002.

This task of balancing the safety of children against the potential trauma of removal from their parents can prove difficult. Dr. Douglas Goldsmith, an expert in the field of child psychology, said it is critical to provide support to children in such cases.

“Every child is going to have a very different response,” Goldsmith said. “For some children, being removed from an abusive household can be very traumatic in itself.”

It is not clear what services, if any, were provided to the Durborow children in the wake of their father’s arrest.

Mental health professionals sometimes describe events such as the arrest of a parent as “adverse childhood experiences.” Goldsmith says ACES, as they’re also known, can be risk factors for behavioral and mental health issues as children develop.

“We know that by the age of 18 if people are starting to accumulate more traumas, their adulthood is going to be severely impacted,” Goldsmith said.

Adam Durborow’s education

Adam Durborow did end up exhibiting some form of behavioral trouble as a teen, so much so that he wound up in juvenile detention in Salt Lake County. Juvenile court records are sealed, so it is not currently evident what specific offense landed him in custody.

While in juvenile detention, Durborow took part in the Granite School District’s Youth in Custody program, also known as YESS. School district records showed Durborow completed his junior and senior years of high school under the care of the juvenile justice system.

State court records indicate Adam Durborow was still under juvenile detention when, a week after his 19th birthday, West Valley City police cited him for shoplifting at the ShopKo store at 4850 W. 3500 South.

Durborow pleaded guilty to a class B misdemeanor theft charge on Oct. 27, 2010, and was sentenced to a term of 60 days in jail. However, West Valley City Justice Court Judge Brendan McCullagh suspended the sentence, meaning Durborow was not expected to actually spend the time in jail.

Sherry Black’s husband, Earl Black, discovered her body in their book store a little over a month later.

Second shoplifting case

West Valley City police again cited Adam Durborow for theft on Jan. 15, 2011, about a month-and-a-half following the killing of Sherry Black. Court records indicate Durborow continued to be in the custody of the Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services when, on Feb. 1, 2011, he pleaded guilty to the second theft charge.

As a result, Durborow received a sentence of 180 days in jail. The court did not show the same leniency as before, ordering him to begin serving the time in the Salt Lake County Jail at the end of March, 2011.

Durborow was released from jail that autumn, but soon missed a scheduled court date from the 2010 shoplifting case. The court issued a warrant for his arrest, which listed his address at that time as an apartment located at 480 E. 4120 South in Millcreek.

The apartment, which sat just a mile away from Sherry Black’s bookstore, actually belonged to a woman named Tishelle Marie Kelley. Posts on Adam Durborow’s Facebook account suggest Kelley is his biological mother.

State court records also show Kelley was living at that apartment in November of 2010, when Sherry Black was killed.

Joseph Durborow’s release

Adam Durborow did not remain at his mother’s apartment for long. His Facebook posts from that time indicate he moved to the Clearfield Job Corps Center in 2012. That summer, he learned his adoptive father, Joseph Durborow, had been released from federal prison.

“How dare anyone even try to tell me that someone who just got out of the pen on a dime as a pedophile deserves my full unearned respect,” Adam Durborow wrote in a Facebook post on July 2, 2012. “I forgive but I will never forget.”

About six weeks later, Adam Durborow mentioned in another Facebook post that people had “voiced concerns” over his not taking his medications.

“I am a fairly successful person,” Adam Durborow wrote. “I’ve been nedicated [sic] since seven for adhd and bipolar. That’s too young! People should wait for their kids to get past puberty before doping them upon [sic] meds for typical teen behavior.”

Adam Durborow’s criticisms of his adoptive parents grew increasingly hostile and pointed.

On Aug. 27, 2012, Adam Durborow again posted to Facebook about Joseph Durborow’s release from federal prison, calling out his adoptive mother by name for standing by him.

“I despise the way karen durborow makes it sound like the world is trying to get her,” Adam Durborow wrote. “You know what stresses her out? Knowing that your husbands a pedophile and that you chose him over your kids. … Your husband is sick and he should not be in your house. She kicked out two of the girls who have certain disadvantages just so he could move back in with her. Sick.”

More than eight years would elapse from the time of that post to Oct. 10, 2020, when Unified Police arrested Adam Durborow on suspicion of murder for the killing of Sherry Black.

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