EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSONE YEAR MISSING
from Eyewitness News Online
One Year Later, Family Still Pleading For Answers In Missing Girl's Disappearance
Reported by: Leslie Rubin
Videographer: Troy Morgan
Web Producer: Leslie Rubin
Reported: Sep. 24, 2012 11:32 PM EDT
Weston , Lewis County , West Virginia
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of a little girl from Lewis County still haunts those who have no clue what happened to her.
Aliayah Lunsford, 3, disappeared from her home in Bendale one year ago.
The FBI labeled the case a crime, but no suspects were ever named.
Police have never said publicly what they believe happened to the toddler, and family members say they are outraged at the lack of progress in the case.
"One year is unacceptable. We are talking about a 3-year-old child," said Vickie Bowen, Aliayah's great aunt.
It's a mystery that is still as strong as it was the day she vanished. A case that has frustrated her extended family who gathered outside the Lewis County Courthouse on Monday, holding signs, and hanging ribbons, saying they are desperate for answers.
"I hoped and prayed that we would never be standing here for a year. I just, it's so hard a year and not knowing where she's at," said Tina Smith, another aunt.
"Aliayah is what is important. She is a precious child of God that we need to find," said Bowen.
Lena Lunsford was not at the demonstration. She's serving an 8-month prison sentence for welfare fraud that was uncovered after Aliayah's disappearance.
Her step-father Ralph, whom Lena has filed for divorce from, still lives in Lewis County. Neither has publicly made a plea for their daughter's return. Fingers have been pointed at the couple since the early stages of the investigation, but the FBI has never publicly named them as suspects.
Bowen says an FBI investigator in the case told her several months ago that without Lena and Ralph's cooperation, the girl would likely never be found.
"They're not going to confess. Where are the investigators? Where are the people who are trained and skilled to get these answers for us?" she asked.
The family says they haven't received updates in months, and also say their calls for inquiry and tips they personally received, are often ignored.
"We get tips and we get tips and they say turn them over, turn them over. And we turn them over, and it's just like we're a laughing stock," said Smith.
Still the hold out hope the case hasn't gone cold, and next year they won't be back at the same spot, still begging for answers.
In March, FBI officials said they would try to update the media monthly on the case. They have not held any news conferences since then.
If you have any information, call the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center at 1-866-WVWATCH.
It's been one year since a West Virginia toddler vanished from her Lewis County home.
A ceremony is scheduled Monday evening at the Bendale United Methodist Church to remember 3-year-old Aliayah Lunsford.
Lena Lunsford told police her daughter was in bed in the family’s home in Bendale at 6:30 a.m. Sept. 24, 2011, but the girl was not there when she checked on the toddler a few hours later.
Both Lena and stepfather Ralph have faced a lot of public scrutiny over the little girl's disappearance, but investigators refuse to say if they are suspects.
FBI investigators say they do not believe an intruder took her, but they will not say what they believe did happen, or whether they think Aliayah is alive.
The case has received national attention from the media and several groups have come to out to search for her. Aliayah's great-aunt Vickie Bowen said it seems the world has forgotten her, but Bowen and relatives still search regularly.
Lewis County Sheriff's Deputy Lt. David Parks said it's still an active case, and police are doing all they can.
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