Police: Mom arrested in Pinellas hid daughter’s body before reporting her missing

Aliayah Lunsford was reported missing in September of 2011. An age-progression photo is shown at right. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children photos
Lena Marie Lunsford, Pinellas County Jail booking photo
Lena Marie Lunsford, Pinellas County Jail booking photo

WESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A St. Petersburg woman who was arrested for the death of her 3-year-old daughter, hit her on the head with a blunt object and watched her die after refusing to seek medical help. She then hid the girl’s body and reported her missing five years ago, West Virginia authorities said Friday.

In a criminal complaint, Lewis County investigators said Lena Lunsford also instructed others who were with her at the time to keep quiet about what really happened. The complaint did not name the witnesses.

Lunsford reported Aliayah missing on Sept. 24, 2011. Now 34, she was arraigned Friday on a charge of death of a child by abuse and jailed with bail set at $250,000. She did not enter a plea. She was extradited from Pinellas County to face the charges. A defense lawyer was not immediately assigned to her case, court officials said.

“The investigation has led us to believe that the one person who possesses knowledge of Aliayah’s whereabouts is now in custody,” Sheriff Adam Gissy said. Gissy declined to answer further questions at a news conference Friday, citing the ongoing investigation.

FBI agents went door to door, dive teams scoured a local river, and hundreds of volunteers helped federal, state and local authorities search for Aliayah after Lunsford reported her missing. Lunsford told police she had checked on her daughter in her bed early in the morning then found her gone when she looked in on her again later. She was eight months pregnant at the time and subsequently gave birth to twins.

After Aliayah vanished, Lunsford spent eight months in prison for welfare fraud and lesser amounts of time on probation violations, records show. Her parental rights were terminated by the West Virginia courts, and her six other children were put in state custody.


WFLA.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s