Missing child's mom arrested in 2011 cold case, charged in her death

West Virginia detectives track mom to St. Pete
Posted at 9:33 PM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-04 10:52:28-04

New leads in the case of Aliayah Lunsford led investigators to a home in St. Petersburg.

Aliayah went missing on Sept. 24, 2011. At the time her mom, Lena Lunsford, called 911 to report that her daughter was missing from her bedroom.

A nationwide search for Aliayah followed and more than five years later, Aliayah’s body has not been found.

On Thursday, detectives with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office assisting authorities from West Virginia arrested Lunsford at 5910 31st Street North St. Petersburg.

Tammy Harris, a secretary for Lewis County (W.Va.) Sheriff Adam Gissy, said a news conference would be held at 11 a.m. Friday in Lewis County with more details on the arrest.

“Some developments have been made in the case,” FBI Supervisory Agent Greg Heeb said. “It is not our arrest warrant, though, but we are aware of possible developments in the case.”

The girls’ parents, Lena and Ralph, have been in and out of jail on other charges, but were never publicly deemed “suspects” by a host of investigators including the FBI, West Virginia State Police and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Lena Lunsford served eight months in federal prison on welfare fraud charges and moved to Wheeling before eventually moving Florida, where she was arrested.

In 2013, the Lunsfords lost all parental rights. At a hearing in 2012, a circuit court judge found "that the parents had more knowledge about Aliayah’s whereabouts than they revealed but refused to provide that information to the court.”