When it comes to modern-day crime in the Berkshires, none is perhaps as notorious or as chilling as the child murders Lewis Lent Jr. carried out in the early 1990s.
Were it not for a Pittsfield girl who successfully escaped Lent's attempt to kidnap her on North Street in 1994, Pittsfield and Lanesborough police might not have caught him when they did. But Rebecca Savarese, who was walking to school at the time, and a man who saw the abduction attempt were able to provide police enough of a description to help them track Lent down.
Lent, who lived in a second-floor apartment on Hudson Street in North Adams, was convicted in that attempted abduction and sentenced to 17 to 20 years in prison.
In 1996, Lent, then 43, pleaded guilty to the 1990 abduction and murder of 12-year-old Pittsfield boy Jimmy Bernardo. Lent also admitted in 1996 to the 1993 murder of Sara Anne Wood, 12, of Frankfort, N.Y. Wood's body was never found.
Lent was sentenced to life without parole for those crimes and is in the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Concord. He is 62 today.
"This was not a man with delusions or fantasies," Berkshire District Attorney David A. Capeless told The Eagle last year. "He was building a space where he planned to kidnap, torture and kill his victims. We have evidence of this."
According to Associated Press files, Lent once claimed to have an evil alter ego, and said he suffered a memory blackout since encountering aliens in Virginia in 1974.
Shortly after his arrest, authorities had attempted to connect Lent to many more missing children in Eastern New York and Western New England but hadn't been successful until now. On Monday, authorities said Lent confessed to killing 16-year-old James Lusher, who was never seen again after leaving his home on a bicycle ride in November 1992.
Sara Anne Wood was walking her bike to her family's home in the Mohawk Valley of New York in August 1993 when she was abducted. Lent later told authorities he buried her off a logging road in the Adirondacks.
More than a dozen searches over the years, including in the Raquette Lake area of the Adirondacks, have failed to find Wood's body. Lent later recanted his story and has since refused to cooperate with authorities seeking Sara's burial site, though authorities earlier this year did discuss renewing the search for her body. In New York, Lent was sentenced to a prison term of 25 years to life in Wood's killing.
Lent is currently serving a life sentence for the October 1990 murder of Jimmy Bernardo of Pittsfield. Bernardo was last seen at a Pittsfield movie theater on Route 20 where Lent was the janitor. The boy's body was found a month later.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.