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Prosecutors Feud Over Search for Missing Girl

February 17, 1994

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ Prosecutors in two states are feuding over whether an accused child killer can be brought to New York state to help find the body of a missing 12-year- old girl.

And now, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., has stepped in. He asked Attorney General Janet Reno to intervene, and she’s agreed to meet with the victim’s parents next week in Washington.

″It’s basically two states, two district attorneys and their jurisdictions, and we’re not really sure if there is anything the federal government can do,″ said Caroline Aronovitz, a Justice Department spokeswoman. ″But the attorney general is going to look into it and do whatever she can.″

Sara Anne Wood was last seen Aug. 18 while riding her bicycle along a country road in her home town of Litchfield, about 75 northwest of Albany.

The massive search for Sara shifted to Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks, about 100 miles northwest of Albany, in January, when police said a suspect in another case gave them a map of where he allegedly buried Sara’s body.

The suspect, 43-year-old Lewis S. Lent Jr., is being held in Pittsfield, Mass., facing charges of abducting and killing a 12-year-old boy and trying to kidnap a 12-year-old girl. He has pleaded innocent in both cases.

This week, authorities in Herkimer County, N.Y., issued warrants charging Lent with kidnapping and murder in Sara’s disappearance.

But Gerard Downing, district attorney in Berkshire County, Mass., has blocked attempts to bring Lent to New York to help search for Sara’s remains, according to her parents and Herkimer County District Attorney Michael Daley.

A Downing spokesman, Fred Lantz, declined to comment. But Downing has said previously that Lent refuses to cooperate in the search for Sara and now denies involvement in her disappearance.

Downing also has said that it was decided to try Lent in Massachusetts because first-degree murder there carries a penalty of mandatory life in prison without parole.

Daley claims Downing refused to cooperate with a plan worked out with federal prosecutors in Syracuse that would have allowed Lent to be brought to New York under federal auspices.

″Mr. Downing, for whatever reason he chooses, has ignored that they (the Woods) are the victims and they are the people we should be most concerned about,″ Daley said during a news conference.

The Woods have been less tactful. They say Downing just wants to prosecute Lent for his own political gain. Downing is up for re-election this year.

Sara’s father, Robert Wood, said the meeting with Reno is an ″encouraging″ development.

″Our intent is to talk to her heart-to-heart, enlist her support and ask her to do what she can to get us closer to finding my daughter’s body,″ Wood said.

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