WESTFIELD — More than 20 years after James "Jamie” Lusher disappeared from Westfield, child serial killer Lewis S. Lent Jr. has confessed to abducting the 16-year-old, killing him, and then dumping his body into Greenwater Pond in Becket, officials said Monday.
“To this day, when I see a kid, a 16-year-old kid on a bike with black hair, I will instinctively look,’’ the victim’s father, James Lusher, said Monday. “My closure is finding my son, his body.”
Lent, formerly of North Adams, confessed to murdering Lusher in return for not being prosecuted for the 1992 killing and provided information that could open the door on other unsolved cases in the area, Hampden District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni said.
“Lent is someone who law enforcement here and in other places is very interested in,’’ he said. “He is a subject that is on the radar for other cases. This information and the new information gathered from Lewis Lent has reinvigorated investigations.”
Mastroianni and other law enforcement officials would not disclose which crimes are the focus of the new probe.
Armed with the new information gleaned from Lent in the last month, law enforcement officials will begin Tuesday to search the pond, where depths can reach 58 feet, in hope of recovering Lusher’s remains and to provide his still-grieving family some closure, officials said.
Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless, State Police Colonel Timothy P. Alben, and Westfield police Captain Michael McCabe joined Mastroianni in making the announcement in a press conference at Westfield South Middle School.
James Lusher said that Lent recently provided law enforcement with a step-by-step description of his son’s final journey, which began on Nov. 6, 1992. Lusher climbed on his new bike outside the family home on Holyoke Road and started riding toward a relative’s home.
Lent, authorities allege, has confessed that after killing Lusher, he dumped the teenager’s body into the 88-acre pond in Becket, which sits between two major highways, Route 20 and the Massachusetts Turnpike, in a small town in the Berkshire Hills.
The elder Lusher said that although it is clear that Lent never intended his acts to offer solace to Lusher and his family, his choice of where he laid Jamie Lusher to rest does offer some peace to the loved ones who knew the teenager.
“Unwittingly, Lewis Lent put my son where he loved to be; he loved the mountains,’’ the elder Lusher said today. “So, if in fact they never find anything, he’s where he loved to be.’’
Fighting back tears, Jennifer Nowak, Lusher’s older sister, said she has thought about her brother every day since he disappeared.
“He was kind of like a little spark that if you didn’t catch it right you missed something awesome,” she said. “He had lots of energy, and we did things other kids didn’t necessarily do. He had a great spirit that shined in his own little way.”
Lusher enjoyed “anything that involved getting dirty” like monster trucks and mud bogs, Nowak said.
The elder Lusher said he never fully believed that Lent, who had long been suspected in the disappearance, was responsible until investigators told him recently Lent had confessed.
“There were a lot of things going on with Jamie,” he said. “He got himself in a little bit of trouble with his mouth, so I had suspected it could have been some other children involved.”
Lent, now in his early 60s, was arrested in January 1994 on charges of kidnapping and assaulting Rebecca Savarese, 12, of Pittsfield, who escaped and alerted police. During an interrogation that lasted three days, Lent confessed to trying to abduct Savarese and confessed to at least two other child murders.
Lent is currently serving life without the possibility of parole in a Massachusetts prison for the 1990 kidnapping and murder of James Bernardo, 12, of Pittsfield, whose body was found in the woods of New York State some 250 miles from Pittsfield.
He also pleaded guilty in New York to the kidnapping and murder of Sara Anne Wood, 12, of Frankfort, N.Y., who disappeared in 1993. Despite a search guided by a crude map drawn by Lent that led to searching areas in the Adirondack Mountains, authorities have never recovered her remains.
Officials said New York State Police will participate in the search of the Becket pond, but only to increase the number of divers involved, not as a resumption of the investigation into Wood’s killing.
McCabe said the investigation into Lusher’s disappearance “has been part of the fabric of [his] entire police career,” and that Lent’s confession will provide a bit of comfort to the town.
“He was one of us,” the captain said of Lusher. “It is gratifying to us that there is some closure, but without having his remains just yet it is bittersweet.”
The elder Lusher said he is not upset that Lent won’t be prosecuted for allegedly killing his son.
“I couldn’t care less what happens to Lewis Lent,” he said. “He can rot in hell, I don’t care.”
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