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  1. #1
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    Jul 2004

    NY - Sara Wood, 12, Frankfort, 18 Aug 1993

    Sara Anne Wood
    Non-Family Abduction
    Age at Disappearance: 12 yrs
    Date of Birth: 3/4/1981
    Date of Last Contact: 8/18/1993
    Race: White
    Gender: Female
    Height: 5'00
    Weight: 96 lbs
    Eyes: Blue
    Hair: Brown
    Missing From: Frankfort, NY
    Notes: Child disappeared enroute to her home from her church.
    Investigating Police Agency: New York State Police at 315-363-4400

  2. #2
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    Jul 2004


    Father Begins Trek in Daughter's Memory

    (AP) 233 words
    Published: August 14, 1994

    WASHINGTON MILLS, N.Y., Aug. 12 -
    The father of Sara Anne Wood began a 125-mile trek today in memory of his missing daughter and to publicize the abduction of a 4-year-old Rochester girl.

    Robert Wood left the Sara Wood Rescue Center at the Better Covenant Church south of Utica at 6 A.M., headed for the Rochester suburb of Pittsford, where he will end his journey at the home of the 4-year-old, Kali Ann Poulton, who disappeared on May 23.

    Mr. Wood expects to arrive in Rochester on Thursday, the anniversary of his daughter's disappearance.

    "We thought we would try to harness the media attention directed toward us to do some good," said Mr. Wood, who has asked supporters to pledge money for every mile he walks. The money will be used to finance the rescue center, which has circulated millions of posters and fliers with the pictures of Sara and other missing children.

    Sara, 12, was abducted Aug. 18, 1993, as she walked her bicycle home from church along a country road.

    In January, Lewis S. Lent Jr., a suspect in the abduction of a 12-year-old Massachusetts girl and the killing of a 12-year-old boy, told the authorities that he had abducted Sara, raped and killed her. He said he had buried her near Raquette Lake in the Adirondack Mountains, prompting a three-month search over the winter and spring that failed to find any evidence of Sara's whereabouts. Mr. Lent has since recanted his confession.

  3. #3
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    Jul 2004


    In Frozen Earth, Seeking Peace; A Father's Painful Search Continues for Sara Anne Wood

    By IAN FISHER, (Special to The New York Times) 955 words
    Published: January 22, 1994

    RAQUETTE LAKE, N.Y., Jan. 21 -
    In a basin of snow and thick trees, Robert Wood dropped his shovel by his side and leaned against a small pine this afternoon. He rested a few seconds, then bent again to the frozen earth, stopping for a moment to twist off a branch that had scraped his head.

    "Somewhere up here my daughter is beneath the ground and I don't know exactly where," he said. "Based on the information we have, our belief is that she is here. We realize that could be false. But she's my daughter. I'm certainly not going to be sitting at home letting other people do the work."

    If Mr. Wood was disheartened that the 13-day search for his daughter, Sara Anne, had turned up nothing, he did not show it. He stood quiet and determined, even after shoveling in zero-degree weather since 8 A.M. beside 111 state troopers, Air Force and Army Reserve members and other volunteers deep in the Adirondack Mountains. All were eager to end the search for his 12-year-old daughter, who disappeared last August in Litchfield, N.Y.

    Since Jan. 10, volunteers have sifted through mounds of snow, pine needles, pebbles and dirt around the abandoned lumber road where the suspect in Sara's disappearance, Lewis S. Lent Jr., told the police he had buried her. By today, they had finished digging through more than two of the three acres on which investigators have focused.

    It is painful work: on Sunday, the temperature was 42 degrees below zero. Workers shoveled sometimes for only 15 minutes, then scrambled up a ravine to warm up in a green canvas tent with two portable heaters. 'A Very Easy Decision'

    The state police say they will continue until they find Sara's remains or are convinced they have the wrong spot.

    "Somebody's daughter is missing," said Maj. Kenneth J. Cook, commander of Troop B in Raybrook, who is heading the search. "It's a very easy decision. My only wish is we could end it here."

    But there is no end in sight to the work off Sagamore Road in this town of 150 winter residents, 100 miles over snow-packed roads northwest of Albany. Shovelful by shovelful, the workers have cleared almost 50 inches of snow and then two feet of dirt around pine trees so thick it is hard to see beyond a few hundred feet.

    They have turned up animal bones, plastic diapers and metal bands, but no sign of the girl's body.

    Chris Johnson, a 31-year-old Air Force staff sergeant from Fort Griffiss, stood shivering beside a fire after nearly six hours of shoveling snow and hauling it on blue tarps for sifting. He had requested the assignment, and said that as he dug he thought of his own children, ages 2 and 7, as well as Mr. Wood, who was always working close by.

    "I have an awful lot of respect for that man," he said, pointing down an incline to where Mr. Wood was laboring among two dozen other men. "He's up here every day with the guys. For him to accept what he's had to accept probably takes a lot out of a man. It takes a lot."

    Major Cook said that Mr. Lent, 43, a drifter who lived most recently in North Adams, Mass., had never said specifically that he buried Sara at Raquette Lake. After his arrest on Jan. 7, he drew a map with landmarks that included where he parked his gray 1983 Ford van, and gave general directions like "5 to 10 minutes south of Blue Mountain Lake" and "100 yards up a hiking trail and up a small clearing," the major said. The Only Likely Spot

    After studying maps and surveying the spot by helicopter, Major Cook said only one place made sense: a secluded former lumber road 2.9 miles down Sagamore Road, off Route 28 here. He said he had no doubt the spot was the one Mr. Lent described.

    "There is absolutely no other spot within miles that fits that description," he said.

    Even after finding this site, there was the enormous obstacle of finding Sara in an area where 30 inches of snow had already fallen and temperatures were dangerously low. Technology has not helped: last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation brought in radar ground-imaging machines that proved useless in sloping terrain studded with rocks and roots.

    Digging at the slow pace of archeologists has been the only solution. Every shovelful of snow is inspected twice, Major Cook said, once as the workers dig it out and again on the tarps. Earthmovers then remove dirt in 6-inch layers. Before and after the digging, trained dogs sniff for the scent of human remains. Where machinery cannot reach, men and women perform the backbreaking chore of picking at the sometimes-solid earth.

    "It's one shovelful at a time," said Sgt. John J. Curry, head of canine and bomb squad units for the state police. "We grind people up. It's hard work." Hopefulness Is Strained

    Sergeant Curry walked inside what is known as the warm-up tent as a dozen or so men in fatigues sat shivering on folding chairs smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.

    "Getting tired yet?" he asked one man.

    "It ain't easy, is it?" the man said.

    "It's not easy at all," Mr. Curry said.

    The cold is no help: today's temperatures just above zero felt almost balmy to some workers.

    "It gets harder as it gets colder," said Dave Coyner, 48, a state trooper who was wearing thermal underwear, a sweatshirt and a thick khaki work coat. "But it's warming up, thank God."

    Major Cook said he was uncertain how long the search would continue. Mr. Wood said he was eager to continue looking, to lay his daughter to rest, and was grateful for the extraordinary effort. But he said he was not as optimistic as when the digging began.

    "I was hopeful the first couple days up here that if the information was accurate they would be able to locate Sara," he said. "But obviously as the days go on, the task gets more challenging, more difficult."

  4. #4
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    Jul 2004

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    A Town Is Hopeful That a Girl Still Lives

    (Special to The New York Times) 772 words
    Published: November 11, 1993

    Correction Appended

    LITCHFIELD, N.Y., Nov. 8 -
    Almost three months after 12-year-old Sara Anne Wood disappeared while riding her bicycle, residents of this small community say they still believe she will be found alive. They also say their sense of security may never return.

    Some parents no longer let their children walk unaccompanied to friends' houses. The school system has tightened security. And the police and community leaders said solitary bike rides for children are probably a relic of the past.

    Despite thousands of leads, the help of hundreds of volunteers and a $150,000 reward offer, the police remain baffled about what happened to Sara on Aug. 18 after she left the Norwich Corners Presbyterian Church, where her father is the pastor. They believe she was abducted by a stranger, but have no proof even of that. Her pink and white mountain bike was discovered in a ditch, with some personal papers scattered nearby. Ribbons and Posters

    Trees throughout the area are now adorned with turquoise ribbons and missing-person posters to remind people of Sara's disappearance.

    "You drive down the road to 35 miles from here, you see parents waiting at the bus stop," said Capt. John E. Wood of the New York State Police, who is leading the search for Sara but is no relation. "People tell us, 'Our biggest fear was that our son or daughter would be out riding their bike and get hit by a car. Now we're worried about someone grabbing them.' "

    Captain Wood said his task force was investigating possible connections between Sara's case and child abductions in Massachusetts and Illinois that took place within a month of Sara's disappearance but no definitive links have been found.

    Scott Todd, one of more than two dozen state police investigators assigned to the case, remarked, "What these people have done, these stranger-abductors, they've taken the childhood away not just from Sara Anne, but from all these kids."

    The police say they have received thousands of tips from people across the country who have seen television reports about Sara's abduction or think they might have information about the girl whose face is plastered on more than three million posters worldwide.

    Last month, several hundred people participated in a candlelight vigil to pray for Sara. Community Still Fearful

    "I'll tell you, this tragedy has brought this community closer together than ever before," said Colin Miner, the phone coordinator at the Sara Anne Wood Rescue Center, which handles volunteer efforts on Sara's behalf, including sending out fliers about the case.

    But fear continues to pervade the area.

    Ms. Miner was one of several people who said they noticed a change on Halloween night, when virtually every trick-or-treater was accompanied by an adult. In previous years, she said, parents rarely accompanied their children on Halloween.

    "People tell us they're not letting their kids out of the yard anymore," Investigator Todd said. "I know I used to let my son ride his bike up to my parents' house down the road. Now, we physically watch to see that he makes it."

    Also, the local school district has clamped down on allowing students to leave school buildings unaccompanied, and now calls the parents of every student who does not show up for school, said Robert Hannah, the Superintendent.

    Wayne Casler, the Town Supervisor, said residents no longer felt the "sense of freedom natural to living in the country."

    With a population of 1,490 and no commercial activity other than two small markets, Litchfield is one of those small towns where everyone knows everyone else. And while that has helped encourage people to volunteer in the search for Sara, it has also made the lack of answers harder to accept.

    "The whole community feels helpless," said the Rev. Paul Drobin of St. John the Evangelist Church in nearby New Hartford. "Nothing is turning up, and there's a sense of anguish over that."

    But Father Drobin also said there remained "an incredible sense of optimism" that is fueled by moments like last Thursday, when 700 phone calls flooded the police command center after a segment about Sara's disappearance on the CBS News magazine program "48 Hours."

    With deer-hunting season approaching, the state police are now turning to hunters for help, Investigator Todd said, "hoping their eyes and ears will help us." He noted that it was a hunter who last month discovered the body of Holly Piirainen, 10, in Sturbridge, Mass., which, like Litchfield, is near Interstate 90.

    "You never give up hope," Investigator Todd said. "If you give up hope, you're never going to find her, or find out what happened to her."

  5. #5
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    Jul 2004


    Search Resumes for the Body of a Missing Girl, 12

    (AP) 316 words
    Published: May 3, 1994

    RAQUETTE LAKE, N.Y., May 2 -
    Searchers returned to a patch of the Adirondack Mountain forest today in hopes of finding the body of 12-year-old Sara Anne Wood, who disappeared last summer while riding her bicycle.

    Authorities had searched the same four-acre site near Raquette Lake, about 90 miles northwest of Albany, in January and February before heavy snow, ice and subzero temperatures forced them to abandon their efforts until the spring.

    Temperatures were around 40 this morning and a few snowflakes were falling when 66 troopers and 90 rangers returned to the site, Capt. Timothy B. Howard said. Sara's father, the Rev. Robert Wood, was also on hand.

    "At this point, the snow is gone," Captain Howard said. "The ground cover of vegetation is not yet grown to the point where it will hamper the search." Confession Led to Site

    Authorities will use computer-mapping equipment to search seven primary sites, he said. Police dogs will go over the same areas, which will be searched a third time by specially trained troopers who will walk over the ground an arm's length apart, he said.

    "Because of the severe weather conditions, the first search was extremely hampered and limited to a localized area. I don't believe that gave us anything further to go on," Lieut. Peter Person said. "So we've re-evaluated and have come up with these areas and feel that we're going to be successful in the areas that we have targeted."

    The police were led to Raquette Lake by a confession reportedly signed by Lewis Lent Jr.

    Mr. Lent, 43, of North Adams, Mass., has been jailed in Pittsfield, Mass., since Jan. 7 after his arrest on charges of trying to kidnap a 12-year-old Pittsfield girl. He also faces kidnap and murder charges tied to the 1990 killing of a 12-year-old Pittsfield boy.

    Sara, of Frankfort, vanished on Aug. 18, 1993, as she rode her bicycle home from the church where her father is pastor.

  6. #6
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    Jul 2004


    Killer Declines to Tell Where Girl Is Buried

    (AP) 518 words
    Published: April 12, 1997

    HERKIMER, N.Y., April 11 - Lewis S. Lent Jr., the convicted serial killer, was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison today for the kidnapping and murder of Sara Anne Wood, the 12-year-old girl who disappeared in August 1993 while riding her bike to summer Bible school.
    Her body has never been recovered, and prosecutors had hoped that Mr. Lent, 47, would reveal its location in exchange for a transfer to Federal prison, which he had asked for. But he declined to provide any information today.

    In sentencing Mr. Lent, Judge Patrick Kirk of Herkimer County Court said that he had often wondered whether he was capable of imposing the death penalty. ''You have answered that in the affirmative,'' Judge Kirk told Mr. Lent, who could not be sentenced to death because capital punishment did not become legal in New York until two years after Sara Wood died.

    The judge offered Mr. Lent a chance to reveal Sara's whereabouts, but Mr. Lent's declined to do so.

    Sara's parents, Robert and Frances Wood, tried a final time to persuade Mr. Lent to change his mind, using stories about their daughter and verses from the Bible to get him to repent.

    ''Whether you accept and repent or go to h**l and damnation with Satan, that's your choice,'' Mr. Wood, a minister, said. ''What you will do will have no effect on us, because we will be reunited with Sara in heaven.''

    As the Woods spoke, Mr. Lent stared vacantly, nodding only when they repeated their belief that Sara was in heaven. He also grimaced as Sara's mother recounted part of Mr. Lent's confession. Mrs. Wood detailed how Mr. Lent kidnapped Sara, forced her into the woods, struck her with a tree limb and buried her in a shallow grave without ever checking to see if she was indeed dead.

    Mrs. Wood then described her daughter, showing Mr. Lent photos of her.

    She then told Mr. Lent: ''This is probably a waste of time trying to express to you that she was a person. You are her murderer.''

    Mr. Lent will never actually have the chance to serve his New York sentence. He will be returned to Massachusetts, where he is serving life without parole for the 1990 slaying of 12-year-old Jimmy Bernardo.

    Mr. Lent was scheduled to be sentenced two months ago after he admitted last October to kidnapping and killing Sara. But at the insistence of Sara's parents, Judge Kirk agreed to a two-month delay in the hope that Mr. Lent would disclose the whereabouts of Sara's body.

    Outside the courtroom, Mr. Lent's mother, Lois Wood, continued to claim her son was innocent, saying that he did not speak out because he was terrorized and tortured in jail.

    ''They sentenced an innocent man,'' she said.

    Mr. Lent's lawyers said that they would appeal.

  7. #7
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    Jul 2004

    Police Appeal for Help in Girl's Disappearance

    (Special to The New York Times) 446 words
    Published: January 27, 1994

    LITCHFIELD, N.Y., Jan. 26 -
    Frustrated in their two-week effort to find the remains of Sara Anne Wood, the 12-year-old who disappeared last summer, the state police today made an unusual plea for help from anyone who was on vacation in the Adirondacks on Aug. 18.

    The police asked anyone on vacation at that time to check their home videos for pictures of the light blue Ford Econoline van that Lewis Lent Jr., the suspect in Sara's abduction, was driving then. Such a picture would provide evidence that the authorities say would help them bring charges against Mr. Lent, who told the police that he abducted Sara as she was walking her bicycle here and that he buried her in the woods near Raquette Lake.

    The police have been searching for Sara's remains in the Raquette Lake area since Jan. 10, mostly in adverse weather, including temperatures as low as 42 degrees below zero. The search continued today, but so far, the police have found nothing.

    At a news conference today at the state police command center for the Sara Anne Wood case, Maj. C. Allen Pylman outlined a possible route Mr. Lent could have taken from the site of the girl's disappearance to the Adirondack Mountains. Hoping for Evidence

    Authorities believe he left Litchfield, a suburb of Utica, on Route 8 going south, took Route 20 east, and then Route 28 north to Raquette Lake, Major Pylman said.

    "If we can put him on this route at a time period after 2:30 P.M.," Major Pylman said, "that will provide us with a critical piece of corroborative information as far as the investigation is concerned.

    "Granted, this is a long shot," he continued. "I'd be the first one to admit that. But if we can jog someone's mind" it might lead to "an important piece of evidence."

    The Herkimer County District Attorney, Michael Daley, said the appeal had nothing to do with the search at Raquette Lake.

    "The purpose of this appeal is to strengthen or establish a criminal prosecution," Mr. Daley said. "This appeal is directed at trying to obtain evidence that can be used at some later date in a criminal prosecution."

    Mr. Lent, a former janitor at a movie theater, has been charged with the attempted abduction of a girl in Pittsfield, Mass., and the slaying of Jimmy Bernardo, 12, who was abducted in Pittsfield on Oct. 22, 1990, and whose body was found in Newfield, N.Y., 10 miles from Ithaca, a month later.

    Mr. Lent has not been charged in the disappearance of Sara because the authorities say they have little evidence linking him to her disappearance,other than his own statements. But the police have said he provided information in his statements that they believe only the kidnapper could have known.

  8. #8
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    Jul 2004

    Icy Conditions May End Hunt For Girl's Body

    (AP) 229 words
    Published: January 18, 1994

    RAQUETTE LAKE, N.Y., Jan. 17 -
    The state police, confronted with another major snowstorm, conceded for the first time today that arctic-like conditions in the Adirondack Mountains may force them to halt their search for Sara Anne Wood until spring.

    "There comes a point where you have to make a decision whether it is cost-effective or not to continue," said Capt. Ronald Tritto, who has been directing the search at Raquette Lake, about 100 miles northwest of Albany.

    "Once we feel we have done a fairly thorough job, then its time for us to pack our bags and come back in the spring," Captain Tritto said. He said no final decision has been reached.

    "It's kind of hard to predict with any certainty," he said. "We're planning it one day at a time."

    The authorities have been searching for a grave containing the 12-year-old's body for eight days in the snow-packed woods off an old logging road near the historic Sagamore Inn.

    They were directed there by information from a suspected serial killer, Lewis S. Lent Jr. So far, the authorities have not unearthed any evidence.

    While the temperature hovered around zero today, a steady snow fell on the site, forcing the state police to suspend the search around 3 P.M.

    Hundreds of police officers and military and civilian volunteers spent most of the last week removing 30 inches of snow from a three-acre site that Mr. Lent described.

  9. #9
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    Jul 2004


    Sermon of Appeal From Father of Girl In Hunt for Her Body

    (Special to The New York Times) 292 words
    Published: January 17, 1994

    LITCHFIELD, N.Y., Jan. 16 -
    In his first sermon since the New York State police started an intensive search for the body of his daughter, the father of Sara Anne Wood prayed yesterday for a successful end to the search.

    Robert Wood told parishioners at Norwich Corners Presbyterian Church that "these are difficult days" for the family as they await word from searchers looking for his daughter's body in the Adirondack Mountains.

    In a prayer of appeal, Mr. Wood said, "We do ask that You continue to guide the authorities, the State Police and their work, that we might have the complete truth and find Sara."

    At another point in the service, Sara's mother, Frances, broke down crying and said, "I want Sara to be found soon." Subzero Digging

    The 12-year-old was last seen by family members in August while riding her bicycle home from her father's church. On Jan. 7, the police in Pittsfield, Mass. arrested Lewis Lent Jr., 43, on attempted kidnapping charges in a separate case. Mr. Lent has been described by the New York State police as the main suspect in the death of Sara Anne Wood and has given them information that has led them to concentrate their search for her body near Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks.

    New York State Police officials said the biggest concern about the search site was the possibility that some troopers might suffer hypothermia or frostbite in the subzero temperatures. A doctor and three teams of paramedics remained at the site yesterday, and several troopers suffered from the early stages of frost bite.

    The 40 to 50 troopers searching for the body kept machinery and equipment running all night so that it would not break down, but still had problems with the freezing hydraulics. They ended today's search at 5 P.M.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2004


    Turning a Spotlight On a Life in Shadow; An Outsider Is Under Suspicion

    By KIRK JOHNSON, (Special to The New York Times) 1348 words
    Published: January 14, 1994

    NORTH ADAMS, Mass., Jan. 13 -
    For most of his 43 years, Lewis S. Lent Jr. lived on the margins of society, inhabiting a world epitomized by the job he held for the last seven years: cleaning the empty and silent theaters of an 11-screen multiplex in the wee hours of the morning. He came, with his own key, when the ticket-takers and moviegoers were long gone and the laughter and excitement were stilled. In turn, he was usually gone when the first employees came in for the new day.

    But Mr. Lent, whose life is now at the center of a sprawling investigation into grisly charges of child abduction and murder, including the slaying of Sara Anne Wood in upstate New York, was not, by most accounts, the sort of morose loner who often turns up on a police blotter.

    The picture that emerges in interviews with neighbors, friends, family members and co-workers is that of a man who seems to be both complicated and simple at the same time, upbeat and friendly, but without goals or direction, showing few dark edges to his character, but at the same time capable of making threats.

    One acquaintance, for example, recalled Mr. Lent -- known to everyone as Lewie -- being keenly interested in what he called horticulture. At the theater, however, cleaning compounds that should never be mixed were hidden because, the manager said, he did not trust Mr. Lent's ability to follow even simple, often-repeated instructions. He liked to talk about cars and claimed an expertise in repairing them, but the rattle-trap vehicles he owned were usually junk heaps that barely ran and were repaired by friends, an acquaintance said.

    A high-school dropout who has drifted from job to job over the years in different parts of the country, Mr. Lent is an ordained minister with the Church of Christ who always volunteered to help his neighbors shovel the snow. But he lost his theater job in November after the manager said Mr. Lent had threatened him and his family, and he once turned up at a neighbor's house with a baseball bat, angry because the neighbor's German shepherd was scaring local children.

    "He was different -- he was goofy," said Lisa Rondeau, the case manager at a nonprofit assistance agency in this town, where Mr. Lent lived, and where he came for help last month. Ms. Rondeau said Mr. Lent's thick eyeglasses, his flannel shirts and jeans, and his ebullient good cheer made him something of a comic figure -- odd, but definitely not violent or aggressive. "There was just something about him -- very, very nice -- he just wanted to help everybody," she said.

    Mr. Lent was arrested last Friday nearby in Pittsfield and charged with trying to force a 12-year-old girl into his pickup truck at gunpoint. On Monday, after a series of what investigators called "very cooperative" interviews over the weekend, the police charged him with second-degree murder in the death of a 12-year-old Pittsfield boy, James Bernardo, whose body was found in upstate New York in 1990.

    He has also become, through his own admissions, the prime suspect in the disappearance of Sara Anne Wood, a 12-year-old girl who was last seen alive in August near her home in Frankfort, N.Y. The New York state police have been searching for her body in a remote area of the Adirondacks near Raquette Lake since Monday, based on Mr. Lent's statements and descriptions. Today the F.B.I. brought in special infrared equipment that would help show where the ground had been disturbed, but the search was suspended about 6 P.M.

    And the web of implications appears to be broadening. In Bennington, Vt., an 11-year-old girl and her father today picked out Mr. Lent's picture in a police photo lineup as the unshaven man with thick glasses who tried to grab her at a Kmart on Dec. 30.

    In the dense tangle of rumor and guesswork that has swirled around the case, some investigators have speculated about multiple personalities or some other disorder that would make such behavior understandable, and some people who know Mr. Lent say they hope the medical guesses are true.

    "Maybe he's got an aneurysm or something pressing against his brain -- I hope for his sake that's what it is, because this doesn't sound like him at all," said Mr. Lent's former boss, Richard R. Baumann, the manager of the Cinema Center Theater. Reviewing Recollections

    Mr. Lent has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, and is being held without bail in Massachusetts. His court-appointed lawyer, Richard D. LeBlanc, has declined to comment on the case and did not return telephone calls today.

    But here in North Adams, a struggling old factory town in the Berkshires, where the snow is deep and the smoke from wood-burning stoves seems to hang over everything, behavior has already changed. Just down the block from the street where Mr. Lent lived for the last 18 months, Reno Maselli stood waiting for his grandchildren's school bus so he could escort them home.

    "My son, he called up and said, 'Why don't you take a walk over there and see that they get off the bus all right,' " Mr. Maselli said, stomping his feet and eyeing the street. "Everybody's scared. It's something that's so close."

    Other people, who have mostly positive recollections of Mr. Lent, are rethinking what they saw and what it meant. Tim Lescarbeau, who lived across the street from Mr. Lent on Hudson Street, remembers that Mr. Lent was always there with his shovel after a big snow, ready to help, and how he bounded over to introduce himself and shake hands the day he moved in, and how he would talk about his love of walking and hiking and nature, and how friendly he was with the neighborhood children.

    Mr. Baumann is reconsidering what he took to be warm-heartedness when Mr. Lent would take a young child to the movies.

    "It's hard to believe you could live next door to somebody like that," Mr. Lescarbeau said. "Everyone thinks it could never happen in their town." Moving Around

    Mr. Lent, who was born and raised in upstate New York in the hamlet of Reynoldsville, in Schuyler County, dropped out of Watkins Glen High School in 1967, when he was in the 10th grade, according to a spokesman for the school. Soon after, he moved to Florida, where he lived -- perhaps off and on -- until 1983 in the town of De Land, northeast of Orlando, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Department, which is investigating Mr. Lent's activities there.

    During that time, however, he did not stay put. In June 1976, for example, he was arrested in the tiny town of Truth or Consequences, N.M., 116 miles from the Mexican border.

    Detective David R. Bryant of the Truth or Consequences police said Mr. Lent was apparently employed there and had picked up some tires from an auto supply store for delivery, but the tires never arrived. Embezzlement charges were dropped, Detective Bryant said, when Mr. Lent paid for the delivery himself. He said the department was still investigating why Mr. Lent was in New Mexico, and how long he stayed. Investigators in the multi-agency task force here are also looking into reports that he was, at varying times, in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

    Sometime in the 1980's, Mr. Lent returned to the Northeast to live, and settled in Pittsfield, and then later North Adams in Berkshire County, where he has no criminal record. But even here, his movements may be hard to track.

    Working a job where no one ever saw him, Mr. Lent was free to come and go when he chose, as long as the theaters were cleaned, and he was known to have imposed on friends to fill in on occasion, Mr. Baumann said. That means he could have easily have been gone for a days at a time without notice.

    Steven Nichols, another neighbor here in North Adams, said he grew to recognize the sound of Mr. Lent's truck starting up in the middle of the night and eventually thought nothing of it.

    What did jar him was the day last February when Mr. Lent showed up at the door, armed with a baseball bat.

    "He said, 'Please restrain your dog -- I do have a gun and if I have to use it I will,' " Mr. Nichols said. "I got rid of the dog a week later."

  11. #11
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    Jul 2004


    Town Prepares to Mourn In Search for Girl's Body

    By CHARISSE JONES, (Special to The New York Times) 1025 words
    Published: January 13, 1994

    LITCHFIELD, N.Y., Jan. 12 -
    In this small rural community, where a 12-year-old girl named Sara Anne Wood lived and one day vanished, hope still hangs by a thread for some who refuse to believe she lies in an unmarked grave. But today, as the search for the girl's body in the Adirondacks entered its third day, most here were preparing to mourn.

    The mood was somber at the state police command post at the Norwich Corners Presbyterian Church, where Sara's father is the pastor. The fellowship hall, normally crowded with state troopers scanning maps, interviewing possible tipsters and eating meals provided by volunteers, was virtually empty, with most of the troopers gone on the 80-mile trek to the site where a Massachusetts man, Lewis S. Lent Jr., has said Sara is buried beneath the earth and snow.

    Mr. Lent, the prime suspect in Sara's abduction, made his statements to authorities after he was arrested in Pittsfield, Mass., last Friday and charged in the attempted abduction of a 12-year-old Pittsfield girl. He has also been charged with the murder of a 12-year-old Pittsfield boy, James Bernardo. Though he has not been charged with Sara's abduction, a joint Federal and state task force assembled on Tuesday will be investigating Mr. Lent to see whether he is connected to other abductions of children in the Northeast.

    Local authorities would like Mr. Lent to come here to help in their search for Sara's body on a desolate two-acre site in the mountains, but meanwhile, more than 100 troopers, national guardsmen and off-duty police officers continued their search, sifting through snow in freezing temperatures until long after dark. 'Mixed Bag of Emotions'

    At the Sara Wood Rescue Center, housed in an old bowling alley, there was little to do but reflect and wait. About 30 of the men and women who have devoted their vacations, weekends and spare time to the search for Sara gathered in a circle and joined hands in midafternoon. Together, standing beside Sara's father, Robert Wood, and her brother, Dusty, the volunteers prayed. Many cried at the thought that their five-month mission might now be coming to a bitter end.

    But even if the outcome is not what they had prayed for, many said it would still be an answer and resolution.

    "Right now, it's just a mixed bag of emotions," said Mark Russ, Sara's Sunday school teacher, who has been volunteering since she disappeared on Aug. 18. "Everybody's heart wants to hang on to thoughts Sara may be alive, but our heads are telling us the opposite. I think under the circumstances, this is a miracle. We may not have the miracle we wanted, but I see how many of these cases go unsolved. It will be a relief to know where she is and who did this crime."

    When Sara disappeared, so did the serenity of this community, just outside Utica. To an outsider, it looks like a postcard, all snow bluffs, stately homes and evergreens. But in the midst of winter, splashes of color and pictures of a child posted in storefront windows hint that something is amiss. Ribbons shaded turquoise and pink dangle limply from trees -- they are the colors of the clothing Sara wore the day she disappeared. Effort Spreads Out

    "You live in the country and you think you might be safe," said Richard Barrett, who went to high school with Sara's mother, Frances. It was on his property, just up the road from Sara's home, that the girl's bicycle was found. "If she couldn't get from here to there, it makes you wonder. It's scary."

    The grass-roots effort to find Sara grew to include several towns near Litchfield, which is home to 1,490 people. Volunteers raised a reward of $150,000 for the girl's safe return, and another $50,000 in a fund for clues to her whereabouts. The state police set up checkpoints, established a command center and hunted painstakingly for clues. Those stationed in the former bowling alley clipped articles and sent fliers as far as Nova Scotia.

    But it now appears that the search will end much closer to home. Mr. Wood this afternoon asked volunteers to stop mailing out Sara's posters, and to begin mailing instead fliers with the faces of two other missing girls, Jeanna North of Fargo, N.D., who disappeared on June 6, 1993, and Stephanie Crane of Challis, Idaho, who disappeared on Oct. 11, 1993.

    "I believe we're on the verge of being blessed by God, getting an answer to a prayer my family has had to not be kept in the dark about where Sara is," Mr. Wood said. "It's my judgment not to continue sending out fliers for Sara."

    It took a long time for hope to dim. Mr. Wood said he and his wife bought Sara a stuffed bear for Christmas, placing it on her bed. And at Sauquoit Valley Middle School, where Sara was a seventh grader, a seat still waits for her. 'Now We're Just Angry'

    "Her name is on the rolls," said Dr. Robert Hanna, superintendent of schools for the Sauquoit Valley Central School District. "And we've kept her desk and materials for her. We still hope she returns to us."

    Still, Dr. Hanna said there was a plan in place in case Sara's body was found. Counselors from his district and others will help students and teachers at Sara's school cope with their grief.

    Once, the volunteers at the Sara Wood Rescue Center had planned to have a welcome home party for Sara. William Horst and his wife, Joan, said they could not wait to kiss the girl and hold her in their arms.

    They did not know her family before the disappearance. Indeed, the elderly couple never met the girl. "We just know her through TV pictures and fliers," Mr. Horst said. "She's like a grandchild to us."

    Since she vanished, the Horsts have come daily to volunteer. "At first, we were very optimistic, but frustrated," Mr. Horst said. "Now we're just angry. There should be stronger laws to lock up people who do these terrible things to our children."

    That will take time, he realized, and more waiting. Mrs. Horst said she would be glad when she and the others who love Sara no longer have to wait.

    "It will be relief that you know," Mrs. Horst said. "Sorrow that it had to come to this, and determination to make sure something like this never happens again."

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Abduction Suspect's Moves Receiving Multistate Scrutiny

    By KIRK JOHNSON, (Special to The New York Times) 885 words
    Published: January 12, 1994

    PITTSFIELD, Mass., Jan. 11 -
    As the parents of 12-year-old Sara Anne Wood joined the grim search for her body today in a snowswept area of the Adirondacks, investigators here said the suspect in her disappearance in August had become the object of a multistate investigation into child abductions as far back as 1990.

    "We'd be remiss, if knowing what we know right now and having the information we have, if we didn't look at this individual as a serial killer," said Captain Frank A. Pace of the New York State Police, the spokesman for a joint Federal and state task force being assembled today.

    The suspect, Lewis S. Lent Jr., a 43-year-old former janitor, was arrested here on Friday and charged with the attempted abduction of a 12-year-old Pittsfield girl. He has since been charged with the murder of James Bernardo, a 12-year-old also of Pittsfield, whose body was found in a wooded area near Ithaca, N.Y., in 1990.

    Investigators said Mr. Lent's every known movement since then -- an arc that took him through Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York and the New England states, would be reconstructed and compared with the dates of child disappearances or attempted abductions. A national toll-free number for leads would be established to coordinate leads outside those jurisdictions, investigators said.

    But the day's real drama occurred far from here, near Raquette Lake, N.Y., where Robert and Frances Wood of Litchfield, N.Y., Sara Anne's parents, were flown in by helicopter to assist in the search for their daughter. Investigators said that statements made by Mr. Lent since his arrest led them to a desolate patch of woods deep in the Adirondacks, and Mr. Wood said he was assuming now that his daughter had been killed.

    "We are going to have our daughter back," said her father, Robert Wood, a Presbyterian minister who has led a nationwide search since Sara's disappearance on Aug. 18. "We realize now we might have to wait until the Resurrection, but we're going to have her back and no one can take her from us."

    In deep snow and bitter cold, about three dozen searchers shoveled snow onto tarps at the search site, sifting for evidence. Mr. and Mrs. Wood returned home late in the day and were said to be in seclusion. Troopers' Personal Stake

    A state police spokesman at the search site -- a 10,000-square-foot area off an old logging road about a mile from Raquette Lake -- said that the prospect of finally resolving Sara's disappearance was producing strong emotions among the troopers assigned to the search, which was being coordinated from a command post set up in Mr. Wood's church, Norwich Corners Presbyterian Church.

    "Most of the troopers of this detail have taken this case very personally," said the spokesman, Trooper Jim Simpson. "We're all anxious to bring this to some kind of conclusion."

    But it was also a day for might-have-beens. The Pittsfield Police Chief, Gerald M. Lee, said it was possible that Mr. Lent had in fact been questioned by the police at the time of Jimmy Bernardo's disappearance here more than three years ago.

    The boy was last seen alive riding his bicycle near Pittsfield Plaza, a downtown shopping mall, on Oct. 22, 1990. Mr. Lent was apparently working as a janitor at that time at a movie theater in the plaza, and Mr. Lee said he thought it entirely possible -- given the hundreds of people questioned -- that Mr. Lent was among those interviewed, although he said that has not yet been confirmed.

    He and the other investigators all declined to say exactly what Mr. Lent has told them since his arrest, and what other cases, if any, his comments were leading them to reopen. But in the Wood case in any event, the statements were apparently chillingly specific.

    "The statements that Mr. Lent made were unambiguous enough to lead us to believe that she would be found in that area and she would not be found alive," said a New York State Police spokesman, James Atkins. 8 Other Missing Children

    Captain Pace of the state police said he knew of at least eight missing children cases in the Northeast that were being re-examined for possible connection to Mr. Lent, but he stressed that missing persons reports are often murky, because children sometimes simply run away. Chief Lee said his office had also received a call from a family in New Hampshire who reported an attempted abduction that would be investigated.

    Mr. Lent, who pleaded not guilty to the murder of Jimmy Bernardo at a court appearance Monday, was ordered held without bail. He was arrested last Friday after the police say he confronted a 12-year-old Pittsfield girl, Rebecca Savarese, with a gun as she was on her way to school. The police said the girl escaped and a witness took down the license plate number of the driver's pickup truck, which was traced to Mr. Lent later that day.

    Investigators said they hoped Mr. Lent himself might agree to help in the Raquette Lake search, but that he could not be compelled to do so. For the moment, they said, their task was to piece together the fragments of where Mr. Lent has been, and try to connect his movements to reported abductions and killings.

    "We're going back to the Barnardo abduction, and past that, to see if we can account for all of his days," said Captain Pace, the state police official here.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    A Suspect in Summer Abduction of Girl

    By JAMES BARRON (NYT) 579 words
    Published: January 11, 1994

    After months of searching the woods and cornfields outside Utica, N.Y., the New York State Police said yesterday that they had a prime suspect in the abduction of a 12-year-old girl who disappeared last summer on a mile-long bicycle ride between her home and the church where her father is a lay minister.

    The suspect is a 43-year-old man who was arraigned yesterday in Pittsfield, Mass., in connection with the murder of a 12-year-old boy whose body was found near Ithaca, N.Y., in 1990.

    The authorities would not say whether he had confessed in the Utica case, but they ordered a search of a wooded area in the Adirondack Mountains.

    Maj. Joseph Loszyinski of the state police said detectives also planned to question the suspect, Lewis S. Lent Jr., of North Adams, Mass., about the murder of a 15-year-old boy whose body was found in a lake in Cazenovia, N.Y., in 1992. Fugitive Warrant Issued

    Mr. Lent was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court in Pittsfield on a fugitive warrant from New York State in the Ithaca case. He had been charged with the murder of 12-year-old Jimmy Bernardo of Pittsfield, who was last seen alive near a shopping center there in October 1990.

    Three hunters found his naked body about a month later near Newfield, N.Y., about 10 miles from Ithaca.

    The authorities said they arrested Mr. Lent on Friday after he confronted a 12-year-old Pittsfield girl, Rebecca Savarese, at gunpoint and ordered her to get into his pickup truck.

    Rebecca was on her way to school when, the authorities said, Mr. Lent approached her and flashed a gun. The authorities said she slipped out of her backpack and ran for help while a passerby copied down Mr. Lent's license number. The police said that led them to look for him, and on Friday afternoon they found him at a friend's house in Pittsfield.

    Mr. Lent pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon in connection with the incident involving Rebecca. Judge Rita Koenigs ordered him held in $200,000 bail.

    The disappearance of Sara Anne Wood last summer galvanized her community of Litchfield, N.Y., near Utica. Volunteers staffed a command post in a converted bowling alley while others printed and circulated more than 1 million fliers with her photograph. Still others joined state troopers in canvassing the area near where her bicycle was found.

    Like Sara Anne, the 12-year-old boy whose body was found near Ithaca was also last seen riding his bicycle. The victim, Jimmy Bernardo of Pittsfield, was pedaling near a shopping mall, where he worked in a theater, when he was abducted on Oct. 22, 1990. The police did not say yesterday how they believe Mr. Lent carried his body to where it was found in New York State.

    In the Cazenovia case, the victim, Sean Googin, had finished his chores as a kitchen helper at an inn and was on his way to a Fourth of July celebration with his family on Cazenovia Lake, near Syracuse. He never got there.

    People in the area said at the time that they heard a scuffle along Route 20, the road Sean would have taken. Major Loszyinski said that Mr. Lent had admitted "traversing Route 20," but provided no other details.

    The state police provided little information about Mr. Lent. They said he was a native of Reynoldsville, N.Y., and lived in Florida from 1967 to 1982. He moved to Clifton Park, near Albany, in 1983 and to Massachusetts three years later.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    Police Seek Links In 2 Disappearances

    (NYT) 208 words
    Published: October 25, 1993

    Police officials in New York State who are trying to find a missing 12-year-old girl have sent an investigator to Massachusetts, where the body of another girl was found on Saturday.

    Massachusetts State Police believe the victim is Holly Piirainen, 10 years old, who disappeared from Sturbridge on Aug. 5 while taking a walk. Two hunters found the body in a wooded area of nearby Brimfield at about 8:30 Saturday morning.

    Investigator Tim Sullivan of the New York State police arrived in Sturbridge late Saturday to see if the Massachusetts case could provide some clue to the disappearance of Sara Anne Wood, 12, of Frankfurt, N.Y. Ms. Wood was apparently abducted on Aug. 18 while riding her bike from her father's church to home, a distance of about one mile.

    Capt. John Wood, no relation to Sara, with the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations, said that his investigators have been in close contact with the Massachusetts State Police to see if there are any links between the Sara Wood case and the Piirainen case.

    Captain Wood said there is "nothing that connects" the cases but, "It's certainly something that has to be looked at."

    About 25 to 30 New York State troopers are still working the Sara Wood case.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    I am curious as to why you have posted this information. It seems pretty clear that Lent killed her and buried her somewhere in the Adirondacks. I followed this case closely when it happened because it took place very near my sister's home.

    Do you have a connection to the Wood family or something?

    Just curious.

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