The mother of a 3-year-old West Virginia girl who went missing in 2011 has now been charged in her daughter's death after new information revealed that the girl was not abducted by an intruder as investigators previously thought.
Lena Lunsford, the mother of 3-year-old Aliayah Lunsford, the girl who went missing in 2011, has been charged in her daughter's death. Investigators say that Lena struck her daughter's head with a blunt object, causing blunt force trauma that led to her death. The mother then allegedly concealed young Aliayah's body, destroyed evidence that could connect her to the crime, and told police a false story about her daughter being abducted, according to West Virginia Metro News.
Aliayah disappeared in September 2011, and Lena reportedly told investigators that the young girl had been abducted by a home invader. In 2012, the FBI said that it had a working theory regarding Aliayah's disappearance that did not involve a break-in, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Lena is accused of striking Aliayah with a blunt object, causing her death. Allegedly, she did not allow those who saw the incident to inform police what had happened to the girl.
"I've tried to prepare myself for the last five years, but I've always held onto some hope that maybe she would be found alive," said Vickie Bowen, Aliayah's great aunt. "I thought I was ready to hear what we heard today, and I really wasn’t."
Bowen said that the last five years have been "a roller coaster of emotions" for the family, adding, "It was relief, sadness, a lot of things going through my mind all at one time. ... I’m glad that we finally have some action in the case."
A theory that had been posited by internet users a few months after Aliayah's disappearance may have been more accurate than those users had realized, according to a 2011 thread from the Reality Chatter forum.
After seeing a poster of Aliayah, some of the users began to connect a red mark on the child's head to her disappearance. The poster in question shows Aliayah with a large red mark under her eye which, according to a post from one user, the girl's grandmother said had come from "running into a door."
That user also circled a red mark in another photo that appeared to be a bruise. The users on the thread began to theorize that Aliayah had been abused, years before the FBI publicly announced Lena's connection to the disappearance. "It will surprise me if she is not guilty of this disappearance," said one participant in the thread.
While police have not publicly said whether they have found Aliayah's remains, Bowen said that she hopes that the girl's body is found, so that the family "can finally have some closure and make arrangements to lay Aliayah to a peaceful rest."
Lena is currently being held in jail on a $250,000 bond.