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The Boston Globe

Metro

Jan. 15, 1994

Lent admitted two murders, officials say

This story appeared in The Boston Globe on Jan. 15, 1994.

In a rambling and chilling confession, a suspected serial child killer admitted attacking an unidentified child in Maine and murdering Sara Anne Wood of New York and James Bernardo of Pittsfield, law enforcement sources said yesterday.

Lewis S. Lent Jr., a self-proclaimed evangelical minister who often quoted from the Bible, blamed the attacks on an alter ego who was “possessed by demons,” a law enforcement source said.

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Lent has purported he suffers from multiple personalities, including an “evil” one named “Stephen.” His middle name is Stephen.

The sources said Lent, of North Adams, did not identify the victim of the Maine attack and it was unclear from the confession whether the child was murdered. It was also unclear whether Lent abducted a child from another state and traveled to Maine.

Investigators are reviewing unresolved cases involving the murder, attempted murder or disappearance of children in Maine for a possible link to Lent, sources said.

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police, said he was not aware of any admissions by Lent in connection to crimes in Maine.

McCausland said there is only one unsolved disappearance of a child in Maine since 1980. Kimberly Moreau, 17, disappeared from her hometown of Jay in May 1986.

A special task force is collecting information from law enforcement agencies across the country and has identified Lent as a suspect in a number of murders from New England to Florida.

“All together, we could be talking about at least six bodies here,” said one law enforcement source.

Lent, 43, made a number of admissions while being interviewed by police last weekend after he was arrested for allegedly attempting to abduct a 12-year-old Pittsfield girl.

The interviews by police were conducted without a lawyer present, authorities have said.

Since a public defender was appointed Monday to represent him, Lent has not been cooperative, sources said.

“He just clammed up,” one investigator said. “We just want him to give us the location of bodies so we can bring these kids home.”

Lent allegedly directed police to a remote location in the Adirondack Mountains where he said they would find the body of Wood, a 12-year-old girl missing since Aug. 18.

Searchers have unsuccessfully scoured the area.

Sources said Lent often stalked his victims and carried a “snatch kit” with him. The kit included duct tape, disguises and candy, a source said.

An 11-year-old girl has identified Lent from photographs as the man who allegedly stalked her at a Kmart store in Bennington, Vt., last month.

Lent, however, has only been charged with the attempted kidnapping of 12-year-old Rebecca Savarese on Jan. 7 in Pittsfield and the 1990 murder of 12-year-old Jimmy Bernardo of Pittsfield. Bernardo’s body was found near Ithaca, N.Y., 12 miles from Lent’s hometown of Reynoldsville, N.Y.

Sources yesterday said they have identified cases of Lent sexually abusing children, including his own nieces. The Globe reported yesterday that Lent’s father and uncle have been accused by other family members of being child molesters.

Investigators have been focusing on at least two other cases in Massachusetts that may be linked to Lent.

One is the 1982 disappearance of 18-year-old Lynn Burdick from a convenience store in Florida, Mass., a town near the New York border. Records indicate Lent attended a Bible school near Albany N.Y. from about 1983 to 1986. It is not clear if he moved to the area earlier.

Burdick was last seen working at a family store on Route 2, which eventually connects with Albany about 50 miles to the west. Police said they suspect she was abducted by a man.

Her father, Rufus Burdick, said yesterday he has not heard from investigators on the Lent task force, but said he has urged the local district attorney to investigate any links.

“I jump at all kinds of chances and I can’t help but get a little anxious when I hear about cases like this,” he said.

Investigators are also reexamining the case of Jimmy Lusher, 16, of Westfield, who disappeared near his home in 1992. Lent was a resident of Pittsfield, about 40 miles away, when Lusher was reported missing.

Capt. Michael Avonti of the Westfield police said yesterday that authorities are looking for a possible connection between Lent and the disappearance of Lusher.

“We’re looking into it, but we don’t have anything concrete at this time,” he said.

Lusher was last seen riding on his bike on Holyoke Road near his home on Nov. 6, 1992. His bike was found a week later in a wooded area on the other side of town, Avonti said.

In northern New York yesterday, search crews struggled against brutal weather at Raquette Lake in the Adirondack woods to find the body of Sara Anne Wood as her father made an emotional plea that her suspected killer come here to point out the grave.

“I hope they will do the right thing, to bring Lent out here to help find my daughter,” Rev. Robert Wood said.

Lent has drawn a crude map that led investigators to a forested area off a logging road.

But after five frustrating days of searching in the snow and frozen earth, the girl’s remains have not been found. Lent has been blocked by his attorney from coming to the site to pinpoint the precise location where he told police he buried the 12-year-old girl.

The attorney, Richard Leblanc, was unavailable for comment.

“Certainly it would help to have Lent at the site. But right now we have only one thing to do: keep digging,” said New York State Police Commander Kenneth Cook.

Rev. Wood made a sad pilgrimage here yesterday. As a gentle but persistent snow blanketed the search area, he said, “I do not believe Sara is alive, but I know she is in heaven.”

He said he came to thank the hundreds of volunteers who have helped the search for Sara since she disappeared last August while riding her bike from church near her home.

He also thanked the media for their help publicizing the case, but warned against “inaccurate” information that has appeared in recent days.

Sara’s disappearance spurred a highly publicized national effort to find her. Hundreds of volunteers staffed telephone hot lines and posters of Sara were plastered across the country.

Wood walked among the police and volunteers, who were using shovels and pick axes, stopping to express his gratitude and drop off a batch of chocolate chip cookies his wife had baked for them.

“I want to thank you, God bless you,” he said to one State Police trooper at the site.

Globe staff writer Sean P. Murphy and freelance writer B.J. Roche also contributed to this article.
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