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Handyman Pleads Guilty to Killing Sara Anne Wood

October 26, 1996

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Three years after 12-year-old Sara Anne Wood disappeared while riding her bike home from her father’s church, a man convicted in two other child abduction cases pleaded guilty to her murder.

Lewis Lent Jr., a former handyman and janitor from North Adams, Mass., pleaded guilty Friday to killing Sara in August 1993.

After his arrest for another child abduction in 1994, Lent, 45, had confessed to raping and killing the girl. He later recanted, saying prosecutors bullied him into confessing.

Prosecutors, who scheduled a news conference this afternoon to discuss the case, did not say why Lent finally pleaded guilty. Lent is expected to receive 25 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder charge.

Sara disappeared while riding her bicycle home from her father’s church in Frankfort, about 55 miles east of Syracuse. Her pink and white bike was found lying in a ditch with crayons and paper strewn nearby.

Sara’s body was never found, and five million fliers were posted with a photo of the smiling brown-haired, blue-eyed girl wearing a cheerleader’s outfit. Sara’s parents founded a center for missing children and lobbied for child protection laws.

Lent has been held in the Herkimer County Jail since June after pleading guilty in Massachusetts to killing 12-year-old Jimmy Bernardo of Pittsfield, Mass. He faces life in prison in connection with that conviction.

He already was serving a sentence of 17 to 22 years for attempting to kidnap a 12-year-old Pittsfield girl in January 1994.

Lent will be sentenced in the Wood case in early January, with his sentence running concurrently with the Massachusetts sentences, said Joe Mahoney, spokesman for New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco.

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