The case of a young north side Syracuse girl abducted last weekend has again raised the issue of how to battle predators among us.
She was twelve years old and her story broke Central New York's heart. Sara Anne Wood rode her bicycle to meet her father at a church in Litchfield in Oneida County in the summer of 1993. She was never seen again.
It took months before there was a break in the case with the arrest of a Massachusetts handyman, Lewis Lent, accused of trying to abduct a young girl in Pittsfield. Lent was also tied to the murder of a young boy from Massachusetts and eventually gave State Police information on Sara, saying he had left her body in an area near Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks.
Though State Police and volunteers searched for weeks, they were never able to bring Sara home.
The man in charge of the investigation of her abduction was a State Police Major at the time. Allen Pylman is now the Police Chief of Utica, and he knows what Syracuse detectives are going through.
“When the party's not found, it falls into a routine of sorts. And the fourteen, sixteen-hour days become more like ten-hour days or twelve-hour days. But, you have to keep plugging away.
Pylman says the key is methodical police work, following leads and checking for similar crimes that may involve the same person.
“One of our investigators happened to pick up, by reading the teletypes, that in Pittsfield, Mass, there was a girl who matched, approximately, the same age, coloration and what not of Sara Anne Wood. So we made the phone call out there.”
That call led to the arrest of Lewis Lent.
Allen Pylman spent weeks with the family of Sara Anne Wood. He has spent hours with other families searching for missing children. In the end he says he's learned that the key to foiling the plots of men like Lewis Lent is to keep a close eye on your child.
“These crimes are crimes of opportunity. And if they're not allowed the opportunity, if the predator is not allowed the opportunity, then the crime doesn't get committed.”
Four days into their investigation, Syracuse Police say they have reason to be optimistic that this case will be solved.
Alan Pylman says the Sara Anne Wood case shows that investigators never give up, whether a little girl is lost or found.
The Brittany Fish story is gaining national attention.
A crew from the Fox television show “America's Most Wanted” was visiting sites connected to the abduction Wednesday.
They're expected to spread the story and, more importantly, the description of the suspect and his car.