EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSHope Renewed For Missing Girl's Family With Arrests In 14-Year-Old Local Cold Case
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Leslie Rubin
Videographer: Matt Durrett
Web Producer: Leslie Rubin
Reported: Sep. 23, 2013 6:10 PM EDT
Updated: Sep. 23, 2013 9:17 PM EDT
Weston , Lewis County , West Virginia
Renewed hope for a missing Lewis County toddler's family as a local cold case is cracked nearing the two year anniversary of her disappearance.
Tuesday will mark two years since Aliayah Lunsford, 3, was reported missing from her home in Bendale.
It's hard for Tina Smith and Vickie Bowen to imagine what Aliayah would be doing today.
"She would have probably started kindergarten this year," Bowen said.
It's even harder for them to face the reality that for the last two years the girl has not been found, there have been no arrests made in her disappearance, and the case has essentially torn their families apart.
"I won't shut up, I won't quit looking for Aliayah and I won't even quit looking for Aliayah until we get some kind of answers," Bowen said.
Despite the passage of time, they hold out hope that Aliayah's face, her name, her picture and her story will not be forgotten.
"I don't think the community has forgotten the case at all," said Tina Smith.
They're going into year two of the search for Aliayah with a new sense of hope. Last week, the Lewis County Sheriff's Department arrested three men for the murder and kidnapping of Maxine Stalnaker and Mary Friend. The mother and daughter have not been seen since December 1999. Fourteen years of questions for that family, finally getting some answers. Bowen and Smith hope to one day feel that same sense of relief.
"It gave me hope," Bowen said.
From the protests, to the prayers, to the public outcry for answers, it's a case law enforcement has remained extremely quiet on. That part of the investigation frustrates the family, but investigators say their efforts have not stopped.
"The collaborative investigation actively continues with our state and local partners. Leads are still actively coming in and are being thoroughly addressed," said Kelly Kochomba, FBI Spokesperson.
Lewis County Sheriff Adam Gissy echoes that statement from the FBI, telling Eyewitness News on Monday that it is far from a cold case.
Investigators have never publicly named Aliayah's mother, Lena Lunsford, or step-father Ralph Lunsford as persons of interest in the case. Neither have made any public statements on Aliayah's behalf.
Lena is currently on federal probation, living in Wheeling, and expecting her eighth child. The state has custody of her other children, including twins that were born shortly after Aliayah disappeared.
Ralph still resides in Lewis County.
"Aliayah we're not giving up. We're still here, we're going to be here until your found," Smith said.
There will be a candlelight vigil on Tuesday at the Lewis County Courthouse from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Anonymous tips can be called in to the West Virginia Fusion Center at 304-558-4831. E-mails can be sent to www.fusioncenter.wv.gov
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