Sara Anne Wood – MISSING – Litchfield, New York
HAIR: BROWN, CURLY, SHOULDER LENGTH
WEIGHT: 96 LBS
WEARING: PINK T-SHIRT W/”GUESS WHO” WRITTEN ON IT, TURQUOISE SHORTS, BROWN SANDALS
SARA DISAPPEARED WHILE RIDING HER BIKE HOME FROM NORWICH CORNERS CHURCH ON ROBERTS ROAD IN FRANKFORT.
LEWIS S. LENT JR., 43, CONFESSED TO KIDNAPPING, SEXUALLY ASSAULTING, AND KILLING SARA, BUT LENT HAS REFUSED TO SAY WHERE HE BURIED HER BODY. LENT WAS LATER SENTENCED TO 25 TO LIFE.
MISSING SINCE: AUGUST 18, 1993
MISSING FROM: LITCHFIELD, NY
NEW YORK STATE POLICE DEPARTMENT 315-366-6000
NYS MISSING PERSONS CLEARINGHOUSE 800-346-3543
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.”
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.
(AP) 518 words
Published: April 12, 1997HERKIMER, 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.
January 17, 1994
LITCHFIELD, N.Y., Jan. 16 –
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.