ALIAYAH LUNSFORD – ENDANGERED MISSING September 24, 2011 – USMCC000168LTWH – UPDATED 03.04.2014
Date of Birth: July 29, 2008
Height: 3’0” Weight: 35 lbs
Hair: Brown Eyes: Brown
Missing: September 24, 2011 From: Weston, WV
Distinguishing Features: Ears pierced. Missing top four front teeth.
Last seen wearing purple Dora pajama bottoms and a pink princess sweatshirt.
Lena Lunsford, Aliayah Lunsford’s mother, reported her missing the morning of September 24, 2011. She checked in on her 3 year old daughter at 6:30 that morning. When she went to check on her again 3 hours later, Aliayah was gone. Lunsford then drove around in her car for 2 hours looking for Aliayah until she ran out of gas. She did not contact authorities until 11:30 that morning, 5 hours after last seeing her daughter.
The FBI launched an investigation into the little girl’s disappearance, and police reportedly tracked Aliayah’s scent to the edge of a river early on in the search, but nothing came of it. Dogs could alert to her scent indicating she may have been there as long as 7 days prior. Dive teams searched the West Fork River and found nothing. Police have interviewed every sex offender in the county, all of whom have alibis and weren’t in the vicinity of Aliayah’s home that morning. Throughout the investigation, Lena and Ralph Lunsford, Aliayah’s stepfather, have been questioned extensively. It has been reported that Ralph Lunsford has taken two polygraph exams, one coming back inconclusive, and the other he failed. Lena Lunsford’s attorney claims she was unable to take a polygraph exam because she was pregnant. Ralph’s step father is a registered sex offender and served 17 1/2 years for child molestation and incest. Given this information, it is shocking that Ralph and his family have not been investigated in depth.
Detective’s have stated that the house would be easy for a toddler to leave, with one door missing a handle and another not closing very well. The home is also a busy one with four other children, aged 11, 9, 5 and 8 months, and Aliayah’s mother expecting twins.
The FBI recently stated said there was little hope Aliayah was still alive. They also say they have very few leads in the case.
The FBI is offering a $20,000.00 reward for information leading to the discovery of Aliayah or to the person or persons responsible for her disappearance.
The FBI has also stated that they believe hunting season may be helpful, and are asking all hunters in the area to be on the lookout for anything suspicious and report it to law enforcement immediately.
There is no plan to scale down the search for the little girl. A search was recently wrapped up in the Vadis area of Lewis County, which helped them to rule out certain things.
Lena Lunsford violated her federal probation terms, according to court documents. U.S. Pretrial Services Officer Brian Kilgore wrote that she has violated the terms of her probation with two incidences of “non-compliance.” Federal records show State Police troopers found Lena Lunsford and her husband Ralph in possession of synthetic drug bath salts in Clarksburg on November 1. The records show Lunsford then failed to report the incident to her supervising officer. Federal authorities arrested Lunsford in October for charges related to federal welfare fraud. Lena Lunsford was charged with one count of federal welfare fraud for selling her Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program card more than 4 times. Lena faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, up to a $250,000 fine and restitution, she is free on bond.
Lena Lunsford released a statement, asking people to keep her family in their prayers. She also said she would, “continue to fully cooperate with the investigators who are working so hard for Aliayah’s return home.” Regarding her probation case, however, Kilgore wrote, “The defendant appears to be demonstrating a lack of willingness to fully cooperate with the conditions of her supervision, and she appears to be selectively censoring what she wants her supervising officer to know.”
A petition was recently filed in the Lewis County circuit clerk’s office seeking the biological father of missing 3-year-old Aliaya, or the permanent termination of parental and custodial rights of the said parent. The petition, which is dated January 5, 2012 and has been advertised in a Lewis County newspaper, is seeking to have Aliayah placed in the permanent custody of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources pursuant to Chapter 49, Article 1, Section 3, of the West Virginia Code, because she allegedly was abused and neglected. The legal advertisement is addressed to “any and all who claim paternal and/or custodial rights in and to the child.” Lena Lunsford initially reported Eric C. Harris as the biological father during a call to 911 when she reported Aliayah missing. However that claim was later disproved through DNA testing.
As the days go by, there is still no sign of Aliayah. However, the citizens in Lewis County will not allow this little girl to be forgotten. Upset about what they call a lack of updates on the Aliayah Lunsford investigation, they’re sending letters out to local and state law enforcement. They don’t believe enough is being done to find the little girl and they want to know more information about the continued investigation. The letter reads as follows:
To Lewis County Law Enforcement
Local and State Divisions
To whom it may concern:
We the people of Lewis County, the state of West Virginia and the Nation all come together to plea to you to inform the public of any new developments in the case of missing Aliayah Lunsford. We are concerned that the Federal Bureau of Investigations has left the investigation and that we the public have not been informed of any new developments in the case for a very long time. A baby is still missing. We are concerned for our own children’s safety. As of yet there has been no named suspects in the case or no persons of interest. This lack of any information to the public is leading us to believe that a kidnapper or murderer may be loose on our streets. If this is the case, our own children could be in danger. If this is not the case, then why has a suspect not been arrested? Why have the searches for Aliayah stopped? Why is Law Enforcement refusing to make a statement? The lack of information being made public is concerning to local residents and the public in general. We feel that not enough is being done to find baby Aliayah and bring whoever is responsible for her disappearance to justice.
We ask that you hold a press conference to update the citizens of the progress you have made in the case. We understand that some information needs to be kept confidential to protect the ongoing investigation but the public needs and deserves answers. Aliayah Lunsford needs and deserves to be found,
Thank you for your time and cooperation in this matter.
Concerned citizens for Aliayah Lunsford
There has been much speculation in regards to the physical abuse Aliayah appears to have suffered shown in pictures released on fliers by the FBI. The beautiful little girl is shown with bruising to her face, and her hair haven been shaved off. It has been said that Aliayah was unwanted and unloved, left to fend for herself. This sad story seems to become more tragic every day. There are still no signs of Aliayah or evidence in her case, however it remains clear to officials that this little girl in all likelihood is no longer alive.
Aliayah’s disappearance is being investigated as homicide, abduction or concealment at this time and no suspects have been named.
Over a year has passed since Aliayah Lunsford went missing, and there is still no sign of the beautiful little girl, with authorities being no closer to discovering what happened to Aliayah than they were months ago.
It is of note to mention, that nine days after Aliayah’s disappearance, the other 4 children in the Lunsford home were placed into foster care. The State Department of Health and Human Resources didn’t give a reason, but it is not the first time the children have been taken from their mother. The siblings have previously spent time in foster homes and with relatives.
In January of 2012, Lena Lunsford pleaded guilty to selling $114 dollars in food stamps for $50 in cash and was sentenced to 8 months in prison, which she has now served and has since been release. Lunsford and her husband (Aliayah’s step-father), Ralph Keith, both have extensive criminal records for various charges for minor offenses. Lunsford has filed for divorce from her husband, Keith, and has even been ordered by a judge to stay away from him after Keith admitted to buying and using synthetic bath salts. Lunsford and Keith’s parental rights to all of their children have now been terminated. Sadly, Lunsford’s mother, Aliayah’s grandmother, who occasionally cared for the little girl, passed away in early 2012, before she could ever find answers for Aliayah’s disappearance, and now what may be the little girl’s death.
Investigators do claim to have a working theory about what happened to Aliayah and it didn’t involve a break in. A reward is continuing to be offered of $20,000.00 for any information that leads to the recovery of Aliayah. Police are maintaining that the case is still being worked on, regardless of the lack of updates, and are being very tight lipped about the investigation.
Aliayah’s great aunt, Vickie Bowen, is refusing to give up the search for Aliayah. Her and a few other family members still go out and actively search for the missing girl, as well as handing out fliers and attempting to raise awareness about Aliayah’s case. A renewed hope in bringing Aliayah’s case back to front page headlines is newly appointed Sherriff Adam Gissy, who has publicly stated that he is reviewing the case and will be heavily investigating to help bring some closure to the case. One can only hope that with the renewed interest in the disappearance of this beautiful little girl, that we will soon know exactly what has happened to her and where she may be. Until we are able to bring Aliayah home and lay her to rest, we will continue to raise awareness about her case. No child should be forgotten, and we will see to it that Aliayah remains in the spotlight.
As the two year mark of Aliayah’s disappearance approaches, Lewis County citizens are preparing events to raise awareness of Aliayah’s case, and to remind the public that this beautiful little girl is still missing. A candle lighting ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow evening between 6 and 8 PM, at the Lewis County Courthouse. The public is encouraged to attend and the microphone will be open to anyone who wishes to speak.
Aliayah’s case remains open and active, and anyone with any information that they may feel would be valuable to the case is asked to contact law enforcement. Despite 2 years passing, police say they are still receiving tips and are currently working theories which may lead to cracking new evidence, but have stated that they do not know how long the process will take. From what I have reaserched, and from those close to the case that I have spoken with, Aliayah’s family, community and all law enforcement agencies involved are truly keep Aliayah’s case
Aliayah’s Aunt, Tina Smith and Great Aunt, Vickie Bowen have stated that they have not lost hope. “We don’t want Aliayah to be forgotten. We want to keep her face and her information out there so if someone hasn’t seen it in the past, has seen it now.” says Smith. Bowen told reporters “We don’t know where she is, we don’t know if she’s alive or if she’s dead. We just need people to stay on the lookout. We can’t give up, we’re not going to give up and we’ve never thought of giving up.”
Aliayah’s family and friends have been persistent in bring attention to Aliayah’s case, we are proud and honored to support them. At the vigils held to honor Aliayah’s disappearance, friends and family united together to pass out pins, stickers and ribbons with Aliayah’s name and picture on them to ensure that Aliayah remains in people’s thoughts.
We here at Lighting Their Way Home are asking all of our followers to light a candle for Aliayah tomorrow evening at 7PM and observe a minute of silence. Our Lights For Aliayah remain bright, and we will not stop until this beautiful little girl is brought home.
As the two year anniversary of Aliayah’s disappearance passes, authorities are once asking hunters to be on the lookout for any sign of Aliayah. Tammy O’Connell volunteered in the initial search for Aliayiah, and now two years later will again be on the lookout as she hunts. Asking hunters to be aware could be exactly what breaks this case. Hunters are perfect for the job of searching for any evidence. As O’Connell states “You have to watch where you step, what you do, because of the situation. I think it’s very easy to notice anything that’s out there if you really do safely hunt.” I could not agree more. I was raised in a family that enjoys hunting together, and when you hunt, you are VERY aware of everything around you and you are hunting directly in the bush, going places where the average person would not. When my family hunts, we take hours to walk through the bush and cover quite a large area between all of us. Just being aware and having Aliayah in the back of your mind may uncover what is needed to bring this baby girl home, and let’s be honest, lay her to rest.
If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Aliayah Lunsford, please immediately contact the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at:
The West Virginia Fusion Centre at:
The National Center For Missing & Exploited Children at: