Day Two update: Divers continue search for Jamie Lusher's remains
Wednesday update: State police divers continue their search for the remains of James "Jamie" Lusher Greenwater Pond in Becket today. From the scene, Eagle reporter Tony Dobrowolski reports that divers have not turned up any evidence of human remains as of 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Day Two of what's expected to be a three-day search. Authorities brought in a new sonar that could better discern the bottom where the pond is deeper and visibility is low. Divers also started tracking westward in the lake, given the understanding that currents in the lake flow in that direction.
Updates to this coverage will be posted as developments warrant; meanwhile, here is this morning's coverage of Day One:
BECKET - State police divers and teams with sonar units scoured Greenwater Pond on Tuesday hoping to recover the remains of a 16-year-old Westfield boy who disappeared 21 years ago.
The first of what could be a three-day search didn't turn up any trace of James "Jamie" Lusher, and authorities will return this morning for a second day of looking.
On Monday, authorities revealed they'd begin looking for the boy's remains after they say former convicted child killer Lewis Lent Jr. confessed in prison to killing Lusher and placing his body in the pond. Lusher disappeared on Nov. 6, 1992, while riding his bike to his grandmother's house in Blandford. Lent, a handyman and janitor from North Adams, is serving life in prison for the 1990 abduction and murder of Jimmy Bernardo, 12, of Pittsfield, and the 1993 murder of Sara Anne Wood, 12, of Frankfort, N.Y.
On Tuesday, State Police spokesman David Procopio said he didn't think divers would be able to cover the entire 88-acre pond in the span of three days, but said authorities have a good idea what areas of the pond would most likely yield results.
"If at the end of three days there is no resolution, our dive team will look for opportunities to come back here if they have a free day on their schedule," Procopio said.
PHOTOS: Search for Lewis Lent victim James Lusher in Becket pond
The divers hail from the Massachusetts State Police underwater recovery unit. A New York State Police dive team was also on site Tuesday, as were units from the Massachusetts Environmental Police.
According to Procopio, 18 divers boarded six boats and fanned out across the water from a staging area in Greenwater Pond Cove. Plans called for rotating teams of divers to assemble in a grid pattern and move forward under the water in such a matter that they would cover the same amount of ground at the same time "very methodically," Procopio said.
"Each person is responsible for his column, or his row, in that grid," he added.
Each state police dive team was also equipped with a side-scan sonar unit. Placed over the side of boats, the units use sound waves to take pictures of the bottom of the pond.
"That will reveal the topography, so it can reveal large objects or objects that are out of place," Procopio said. "If the sonar reveals something, we then will put a diver down on top of that."
Searchers say the water is mostly clear, that the bottom of the pond primarily consists of sand and gravel, and that the terrain is fairly level, Procopio said. But there are also several inches of sediment on the bottom of the pond that divers will have to sift through.
"They will be feeling that with their hands looking for anything that is out of the ordinary," he said. "That could be clothing, that could be bones, it could be shoes - anything out of the ordinary."
Tuesday's search was concentrated in a shallow area near the shore that borders the Route 20 side of the pond.
"That location was chosen based on information provided to detectives about where Jamie Lusher's body was placed in the water," Procopio said.
Lusher family members, including Jamie's sister, Jennifer Nowak, and her stepbrother, Mattew Placzek, watched from the shore near where the search was being conducted. Through state police, they declined to comment to the media.
Residents said they were astonished when they heard state police would be searching the pond for remains.
"I think it's very, very scary," said Sandy LePrevost of Lee, who has summered on the pond for 42 years. "I can't imagine that they would find anything after all these years."
Greenwater Pond, located between Route 20 and the Massachusetts Turnpike, has a dam located at the end of the pond located closest to Lee. LePrevost said the water in the pond was drawn down significantly four or five years ago, and nothing was found on the bottom.
"I've been here 40 years and I've never seen this much activity," she said.
LePrevost said it would be difficult for anyone to dump a body in Greenwater Pond because it has no public access.
However, she said most of the people who own homes around the lake only live there seasonally. The place that law enforcement authorities used for a staging area is owned by a real estate company, LePrevost said.
Law enforcement authorities said on Monday they believed the pond was 58 feet at its deepest points. But LePrevost said she believed the depth is closer to 90 feet.
"It's a very, very deep body of water," she said. "It's spring fed, and it's always very cold."
The pond also contains weeds. According to the Greenwater Pond Association's Facebook page, divers pulled weeds out of the pond last August. In June 2012, the Becket Conservation Commission held a special meeting with the Greenwater Pond Association to discuss the use of herbicides to control the vegetation.
Pam Stevens of Lee, whose family has owned a cottage on Greenwater Drive for 40 years, said she couldn't believe what she was seeing on Tuesday.
"I used to swim in this lake; I've swam in it all my life," she said. "To think [a body] could be right here somewhere where I spent every summer of my whole life totally shocked me."
Chuck Moran, another Greenwater Drive resident, has only lived on the pond for about a year. He took the search efforts in stride.
"It's a small inconvenience," he said. "I just hope the family gets some peace out of it."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: email@example.com, or (413) 496-6224.
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