Although little Aliyah Lunsford’s mother was convicted for her death on Tuesday, the story is far from over, Lewis County law enforcement officials say.
CBS5 reports that Prosecuting Attorney Christina Flanigan who helped convict Lena Lunsford-Conaway of murdering her 3-year-old daughter, Aliayah Paige Lunsford, said that Lewis County authorities will continue to search for the little girl. Aliayah disappeared in 2011 after her mother beat her to death and hid her body.
“I can say that we have not and we will not give up hope in finding the body of Aliayah,” Flanigan said on Wednesday.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Lunsford- Conaway hit Aliyah in the head with a handheld object on September 23, 2011, but failed to get the girl medical help after badly injuring her, according to court documents. Conaway then hid the child’s body, took measures to conceal evidence, and threatened others who knew about the crime.
During her trial, Lunsford-Conoway’s ex-husband, Ralph Keith Lunsford Jr., took the stand in a Lewis County Circuit Court and testified that she took bath salts with him on the night authorities think little Aliayah Lunsford was killed. According to prosecutors, Aliyah likely passed away the same night her parents “partied” with the synthetic drug.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, bath salts are “synthetic cathinones” which are commonly used to get high via snorting, smoking, swallowing or injection. Side effects can include paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, anger, aggressive behavior, and suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts.
Lunsford Jr. testified that on September 23, 2011, he drove to a shop in Clarksburg with Lunsford-Conaway and her kids to buy bath salts. He said they also stopped by a convenience store where he bought a 24-ounce can of Budweiser beer. According to Lunsford Jr., he drank the beer and went to sleep; he claimed the children were fine prior to him falling asleep.
The following day, he found out his daughter was missing after he returned home late morning from work. He indicated Lunsford-Conaway asked him if he had seen Aliayah but didn’t explain much else to him before driving away in the family van.
— Stacy Moniot (@StacyMoniotWBOY) February 25, 2014
On Tuesday afternoon, a jury in Lewis County took around 20 minutes to deal Lunsford-Conaway’s fate. She’ll spend the rest of her life in prison for child abuse, murder, and concealment of a deceased human body.
Meanwhile, officials indicated that coyotes or other animals could have gotten to Aliayah’s body. Authorities said Lunsford-Conaway disposed of the little in Vadis, but an in-depth search of the area didn’t produce any results. Flanigan said she’s unsure if the body is still there, but that is where the child was originally hidden.
“At this point in time, we have no idea where the body could be,” Flanigan conceded. “All we can tell you is that we know it was originally taken to the Vadis area.”
Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Lena Marie Lunsford Conaway, Aliyah Lunsford/Handout]