Search for Jamie Lusher's body ends for now, but police say 'this is not over'
BECKET -- State Police divers ended their three-day search of Greenwater Pond on Thursday without finding any trace of 16-year-old James "Jamie" Lusher of Westfield.
But law enforcement authorities vowed to continue looking for Lusher, who disappeared on Nov. 6, 1992, while riding his bicycle to his grandmother's house in Blandford.
"We want to remind the public that this is not over -- not by a long shot," said Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio. "We will be back here, and we'll be back in this lake again."
Although the three-day search was unsuccessful, Jamie's father, James Lusher, thanked law enforcement officers for all their efforts in trying to find his son over the last 21 years.
"They've put out every effort possible to find my son's remains," James Lusher said. "Unfortunately, to this date it hasn't happened. We are realistically optimistic that eventually something will turn up."
James Lusher and his daughter, Jennifer Nowak, said they will consider Greenwater Pond to be Jamie's final resting place.
Former North Adams resident Lewis Lent Jr., currently serving life in prison for killing two other children, including Jimmy Bernardo of Pittsfield, confessed to killing Jamie Lusher, law enforcement authorities say, and to placing his body in Greenwater Pond.
Lent "unwittingly placed my son in a place that my son would have loved," James Lusher said, referring to the tranquil 88-acre pond located between the Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 20 just over the town line from Lee.
"Now I feel fairly confident that I can come to a specific spot, and feel confident that that's where his body was placed, and that I can talk to him," he said.
Nowak, who was Jamie's lone sibling, said her brother would have loved Greenwood Pond.
"Now when I go down the Mass Pike, I have a place where I can blow him a kiss," she said.
The 18 divers from the Massachusetts and New York State Police that participated in the three-day operation spent Thursday concentrating their efforts on an area located on the north side of the pond off Route 20 where law enforcement authorities believe Lent placed Lusher's body. That area, roughly the size of a football field, was marked off by buoys. They also looked at a few spots outside that area, based on tips that authorities had received.
Divers spent the morning doing grid searches in an area where the pond was 35 feet deep and had a water temperature of 44 degrees, said State Police Lt. Col. Timothy B. Alben. The pond is 58 feet at its deepest points, according to State Police, but locals believe it is even deeper.
Alben said the divers operated in half-hour shifts. He said the bottom of the pond varies from gravel, to areas with five inches of silt, to places with several feet of silt.
"Divers down there at that level are flowing grid ropes," Alben said, "but they're literally going hand-by-hand.
"It's tough," he said. "As soon as you start touching some of the material (at the deep levels), it evaporates very quickly. It's dark, as you can imagine."
On Thursday morning, Alben said divers were hoping to find either skeletal remains, items of clothing, or shoes or boots that belonged to Jamie Lusher.
Divers used sonar equipment during their three day search, but Alben said he wasn't sure what other technologies could be of use.
"I don't want to guess," Alben said. "... there's all kinds of technologies in this world to look at ocean bottoms, or search the surface of the moon, and I don't want to get carried away with this. But I've got to believe there's got to be some technology that could be of assistance to us."
Lent has led law enforcement authorities on wild goose chases before. He told them where he buried Sara Anne Wood of Frankfort, N.Y., who he was also convicted of killing, but authorities have never found her body.
"We're not out here for Lewis Lent," Alben said. "We're really here for the Lusher family. We're trying to bring some conclusion to 21 years of wondering, ‘What if?' If we've brought any satisfaction to the family, I think whatever we've done here today is justified and well worth the effort."
Procopio urged anyone who boats, fishes, swims or lives on Greenwater Pond, and has seen anything out of the ordinary, to contact State Police.
"We hope the coverage this week may triggers someone's memory," he said.
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