Daughter testifies mother killed 3-year-old, disposed of body - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Daughter testifies mother killed 3-year-old, disposed of body

The mother is charged with murder and child abuse in connection with her 3-year-old daughter's disappearance in 2011. (Source: Family photos/WCHS/CNN) The mother is charged with murder and child abuse in connection with her 3-year-old daughter's disappearance in 2011. (Source: Family photos/WCHS/CNN)

LEWIS COUNTY, WV (WCHS/CNN) – Charged with homicide in her toddler’s 2011 disappearance, a mother’s trial started Monday, as her older daughter testified the woman had abused the 3-year-old and hit her in the back of the head before leaving her body in the woods.

Lena Lunsford, 35, is charged with murder of a child by failure to provide necessities, death of a child by parent by child abuse, child abuse resulting in injury and concealment of a dead body.

Lunsford’s 3-year-old daughter, Aliayah, was reported missing by her mother on Sept. 24, 2011. An exhaustive search followed for the girl or her remains, but her body has never been recovered.

Aliayah’s mother was arrested in November 2016 and charged with the 3-year-old’s death after her daughter, who was 9 at the time of her sister’s disappearance, came forward as a witness.

Now 15, the girl, whose name has not been released, was the state’s first witness in Lunsford trial, which began Monday. She will be referred to as D.C.

D.C. told the jury she witnessed her mother hit Aliayah in the back of the head with a broken piece of a bed board the evening of Sept. 23, 2011. She also said the 3-year-old was forced to stay in the corner afterward and could not stand on her own.

As she and her older sister, who was 11 at the time, put Aliayah to bed, D.C. said the 3-year-old's head felt “squishy” and the girl said she felt like her head “was going to explode.”

When the sisters went to wake up Aliayah the next day, she was unresponsive.

D.C. testified her mother put the 3-year-old’s body in a laundry basket then drove with the two girls and their younger brother to a remote area, where Lunsford carried the basket into the woods. She returned without Aliayah’s body.

Lunsford made the sisters “promise not to tell anyone,” D.C. says.

“I was afraid of breaking the promise,” D.C. testified. “I was afraid she was going to hurt us.”

In October 2016, the girl finally told her adoptive father what happened to Aliayah. Soon after that, she met with investigators and told them her story.

D.C.’s older sister is also expected to testify at her mother’s trial.

"They couldn't keep that secret any longer. They needed to make it right with God, and they wanted to bring justice to Aliayah," said Lewis County Prosecutor Christina Flanigan to the jury.

D.C. also testified her mother treated Aliayah “differently” than her other siblings, often punishing her more severely. The girl said she thought it was because the 3-year-old had a closer relationship with her grandmother, Lunsford’s mother, who is now deceased.

Lunsford’s attorney, Tom Dyer, asked jurors to “keep an open mind” during the case.

"What Ms. Lunsford did about six years ago does not amount to anything that she's been indicted for in this case," he said in court.

The trial could last two weeks and see more than 60 witnesses.

Lunsford faces life in prison if convicted.

Copyright 2018 WCHS, Family photos via CNN. All rights reserved.

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