WEST JORDAN, Utah -- The man accused of raping and murdering 6-year-old Sierra Newbold back in 2012 has struck a plea deal with prosecutors.
Terry Lee Black entered what's called an "Alford plea" to first-degree felony charges of aggravated murder, child kidnapping and rape of a child. It took place immediately after he was found competent to face trial in a hearing in West Jordan's 3rd District Court on Thursday morning.
Prosecutors dismissed charges of theft, robbery and sexual abuse in other cases. An "Alford plea" means Black maintains his innocence, but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict him at trial.
"Guilty," Black repeated three times as the judge took his pleas.
He was sentenced to serve 65 years-to-life in prison. Salt Lake County prosecutors dropped the possibility of the death penalty.
"This case has lingered in competency for several years. We were looking at a very lengthy trial process," deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Matthew Janzen told FOX 13. "We believe this is a fair and just resolution to this matter and to bring justice for the family."
Black was accused of kidnapping Sierra from her West Jordan home in 2012. Her body was found in a nearby canal. Prosecutors said she had been sexually assaulted and strangled.
"Our family has never and will never be the same. There is such a hole in my heart," said Brad Newbold, Sierra's father.
Sierra's mother, Kathy Newbold, told the judge she did not want Black to ever be paroled.
"I cannot say that I have or ever will be able to forgive Mr. Black," she said. "I have just had to turn this whole matter over to the Lord. Mr. Black has taken my daughter from me and I will not let him take any more from us. I will not waste any time thinking about him in prison."
In tearful remarks, members of the Newbold family relived the kidnapping and the horror of learning of Sierra's death. They urged the judge to keep Black locked up.
Sierra's family left the courthouse declining to comment to FOX 13.
At a hearing on Thursday morning, 3rd District Court Judge Doug Hogan found that Terry Lee Black is competent to face trial. Black has been at the Utah State Hospital since 2016. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, court documents said. His physician told the court he has been taking anti-psychotic medications and anti-depressants which have helped restore him to competency.
Outside court, police officers who worked on Sierra's disappearance wiped away tears as they reflected on the case. Sgt. Dan Roberts said he was glad to see justice for Sierra's family.
"We deal with so many tragedies in this job and each one of them takes it out of you. There are a few cases that stick out in your mind and affect you even more," he said. "This is certainly one of those."