Lewis Lent is a convicted murderer and rapist from Massachusetts. He confessed to kidnapping and killing 12 year old Jimmy Bernardo (1990) and 12 year old Sara Ann Wood (1993), but he refused to say where he buried her body. Lent abducted Jimmy from the Pittsfield movie theater where he worked as a janitor. He was sentenced to life without parole for the Bernardo murder and sentenced to 25 years to life for the Wood murder. He is currently in prison in Massachusetts. However, the jackass recanted his confession and continues to refuse to disclose the location of Sara’s body. Lent has said that he “can’t say where her body is because she is not buried alone.” He is suspected of the kidnapping and murder of other children in the early 90s.
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Today we are a veering off our usually scheduled programming a bit to keep up with our ongoing Berkshire County/Western Massachusetts miniseries. My hometown is… well, quite frankly my hometown is beautiful, and it is not without its flaws. Most of our hometowns are like that, true enough, but my home county has a lot going on. I live in the birthplace of W.E.B. Du Bois. I live in the town where Mumbet became Elizabeth Freeman, the first first black woman to win her freedom via the legal system. I live in the town that has a state recognized monument for a UFO abduction. I live in a town where a teenager shot and killed a professor and a classmate 2 years after I was born. Like… there’s a lot to the history of this place. And I wanted to talk about some of the things that have happened here. This time around, we’re going 30 minutes north of me to Pittsfield, where in the first 4 years of my life a predator was roaming the streets.
Lewis Lent was born in the year 1950 and raised in Upstate New York, somewhere. Eventually he moved to North Adams, which is an hour away from me, and is actually the location of my barber, not that y’all needed to know that at all, but it’s where I live, so… yeah. Anyway, Lewis Lent as a human being was rather unremarkable. He lived where he grew up. Lent had a good reputation. He had few friends, but there were some who believed they knew him well. They thought of him as mild-mannered and goodhearted. He was helpful to friends and to the blind and kind to children. eventually got a job as a janitor at the Cinema Center in Pittsfield. Wowee, that’s a blast from the past. No joke, as I was writing this episode, I’m in the mcdonald across the street from where it was. Lowkey, I think Cinema Center used to be in the same plaza as an Ames. Do y’all remember Ames, The Target before Target? Crazy… I don’t remember every going into Cinema Center. Indeed, I don’t think I ever would have. So, cultural context for our area. Pittsfield right now has 2 movie theaters, the Beacon and The Regal Cinemas at the Berkshire Mall. The Regal cinemas at the mall opened as a Hoyts in 1989, the year before I was born. Cinema Center was SHOOK by Hoyts showing up, as well as their attachment to the crime we are going to discuss in a moment and for the next 12 years it would slowly languish and then die off in 2001, which is the part I remember. It is a little funny though, because our… “mall” is kinda a joke. And the only thing in the Mall that makes money is, well Target AND the Regal Cinemas. They just got the reclining chairs there… and that was where I say infinity war and got my whole life wrecked. The Beacon showed up more recently, and is a really REALLY nice theater with 6$ Super Tuesday discounts, right on North Street in Pittsfield, which is the equivalent of Main Street in any slightly larger township.
Part of the reason I’m providing context to this is literally that… I was alive when these crimes occured and they were REALLY close to where I was at the time. I was 7 months old when Jimmy was kidnapped, and thought I never met the kid, I feel as though I’ve seen his face before. Maybe it’s that I’ve seen his family members in my area before. I don’t know is he had a sibling that I’ve met or something… but somehow, he’s not someone I’ve forgotten, even if I never knew him.
12-year-old James “Jimmy” Bernardo disappeared from the Cinema Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on October 22, 1990. It was known at the time that Lent worked at the theater but he was not considered a suspect. According to Lent’s later confession, he encountered Jimmy Bernardo outside the theater and used a hunting knife and death threats to force him to come back to his apartment. While at his apartment, he taped Jimmy to a bed, cut his clothes off and sexually assaulted him. The next morning, Lent killed Jimmy by hanging. He claimed it was his intent to kill Jimmy Bernardo all along. Jimmy’s body was found in Newfield, New York, roughly 2-3 hours away from Pittsfield, but only a short distance from Lewis Lent’s childhood home. Lent’s frequent trips to visit his family in upstate New York could have been why he was found so far away from where Lent lived. And It might factor in to how he found his next victim.
On August 18, 1993, Sara Anne Wood of Frankfort, New York vanished while riding her bicycle home from church. The bike and some papers were found by the road less than a mile from her home. According to Lent’s confession, he was driving his van along back roads with the specific intent of finding a child to molest and kill, when he came across Sara Wood. He used a hunting knife to force her into the van, then used tape to bind her hands. He drove her further upstate, into the Adirondack mountains where he raped her and clubbed her to death with a heavy tree branch. He buried her body using tools brought along for that purpose. He told police, “I didn’t check to see if she was breathing because I don’t like to touch dead bodies.”
How was this bastard caught you ask? Well, here it is: On January 7, 1994, there was an attack on 12-year-old Rebecca Savarese. Early on a Friday morning in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Lent menaced the girl with a gun and tried to force her into his borrowed pickup truck. She pretended to be suddenly out of breath, fooling him for a crucial moment. She ran, shrugging out of her backpack when he grabbed for her, leaving it and him behind. When another man appeared to help her, Lent gave up the chase and drove away.
Police arrested Lent after they found the truck with the backpack and the loaded gun inside. The truck’s actually owner was blind and told police he often loaned it to Lent. It was during three days of interrogation after the arrest that the truth came out about Jimmy and Sara. Lent confessed to murdering those two children. He also claimed that he was subject to blackouts and memory lapses, apparently blaming these on a 1974 close encounter with UFO occupants in Virginia, which obviously his lawyers used to argue that police coerced their mentally unbalanced client into confessing. A judge called bullshit on that, and allowed the bulk of his statements to be admitted into evidence. Police reported that, during interrogation, Lent wrote a letter of apology to Becky Savarese and appeared disturbed or upset when he talked about killing Jimmy Bernardo. This is… well, this is a strange thing, but to be completely honest, that’s just classic manipulative antisocial personality disorder for you.
On Thursday, January 12, 1995, Lewis Lent, Jr., was convicted of several charges in relation to the attack on Becky. They were kidnapping, larceny, assault with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery. He was sentenced to life without parole for the Bernardo murder and sentenced to 25 years to life for the Wood murder. He’s not getting out of jail.
More recently, in 2013, Lewis Lent confessed to the murder of Jamie Lusher, a 16 year old boy from Westfield Massachusetts, which is an hour east of me on the road I literally live on. Jamie was last seen riding his bicycle away from his father’s house on November 6, 1992. The bicycle was found a few days later near a pond in Westfield. In Lent’s confession, he gave the location of Jamie’s remains, which were located in a pond in Becket, Massachusetts, which is 15 minutes from my house.
Lent was described as being friendly with local kids during the seven years he worked at the theater in Pittsfield. It was said that he often brought them with him when he went to the theater late at night to clean up. This is classic pedophile behavior, and classic grooming that we’ve seen time and time again.
What do you make of these cases? I for one am very shocked that Sara Ann Wood’s body has still not been located. I wish the families of everyone involved peace and closure and solace.
As always, Be well, be mindful, be alert, and… Stay Safe Out There.