There’s only one man who can tell police exactly what he did with 12-year-old Sara Anne Wood’s body in 1993, but after nearly 20 years, Lewis Lent, Jr. still hasn’t said the words to bring closure to so many.
To the heart-wrenched parents who pray they can one day give Sara the burial she deserves.
To the relentless investigators who never gave up hope that final justice is within their reach.
To all those parents and families who glimpsed their own worst fears every time they saw images of Sara’s bright blue eyes and dark curly hair in the news and on posters across the region.
To them all, Sara means more than just the man who is spending the rest of his life in prison for snatching the little girl as she walked her bike home on rural Hacadam Road in the town of Litchfield in Herkimer County on Aug. 18, 1993.
Nearly 20 years after Sara went missing, New York State Police investigators and Herkimer County prosecutors have rekindled their discussions on tips that might one day bring Sara home.
Herkimer County District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter and state police officials would not reveal the substance of their talks, but the possibility of any new searches for Sara’s body are not ruled out.
“There have been efforts to locate her body in the past and, at this point in time, I think we will once again make an attempt to locate her body,” Carpenter said.
More than a dozen searches already have taken place over the years across New York, with a particular focus in the wooded Raquette Lake area of the Adirondacks, officials said.
Now, with Carpenter into his first year as district attorney, the father of two keeps Sara’s file in his office as a reminder of the priority that her case always will bear until it’s closed.
“A case like this, that thankfully does not occur in our area very often, had a huge impact on our community,” he said, “I think it would bring a lot of closure to a lot of people who didn’t know her, but who felt the pain of losing a child as a member of our community.”
Sara’s parents, Robert and Frances, could not be reached for comment.
The quest to find Sara began soon after another Herkimer County district attorney, Michael Daley, took office in 1993. Under Daley’s watch, Lent — a one-time movie house custodian in Massachusetts — pleaded guilty in 1996 to killing Sara, but then continued to play a cat-and-mouse game during the many visits Daley made to Lent in prison.
Lent is likewise serving life in prison for killing another 12-year-old child, Jimmy Bernardo, in 1990 and he also pleaded guilty to attempting to abduct 12-year-old Rebecca Savarese in Massachusetts, a few months after Sara disappeared.
Page 2 of 2 - Although it’s been a while since Daley or any investigators have talked with Lent, now 62, police haven’t ruled out more visits in the future. Still, Daley believes Lent already has said enough to put authorities on the right path.
“I believe that (Lent) has misled us intentionally in a number of different areas, but he has given us all the information we need to find the location, he just hasn’t given us the final piece — and he is challenging us to find that ourselves,” Daley said.
Although Daley — now a former state Supreme Court justice — no longer is involved in her case, he still yearns to find Sara’s body, like so many now-retired investigators who continue to speculate where she might be.
“Resolving this will be the end of my career,” Daley said. “I don’t consider myself retired until we can take that one piece off the table.”
Officials believe “significant steps” have been made over the years to at least narrow down the possible location of Sara’s body.
“As time goes on, the brand-new tips diminish but re-examining other avenues that we’ve currently examined, in light of new technology, becomes more of the focus,” said state police Troop D Capt. Mark Lincoln. “There is a huge investment of people’s souls in this case.”