Mother of missing W.Va. girl released again

WHEELING – The mother of a missing West Virginia girl was again released from jail Wednesday, although the woman allegedly twice violated terms of supervised release that forbid her from contacting the convicted felon who fathered her unborn child.

Lena Lunsford served eight months in prison for a welfare fraud conviction. Since completing the sentence, the Lewis County woman has been living at the Wheeling YWCA and attending West Virginia Business College.

U.S. marshals arrested Lunsford in late June at the college for allegedly contacting a convicted felon and failing to pay restitution. Lunsford met the man at a halfway house in Wheeling, where she was placed after being released from prison. She is pregnant with his child, court documents state.

Federal Magistrate Judge James Seibert subsequently released Lunsford from jail while she awaited a final hearing on her alleged violation. One week after she was released, however, Lunsford again was arrested by marshals for allegedly contacting the man.

On Wednesday, Lunsford’s attorney, federal public defender Brian J. Kornbrath, waived his client’s right to have the prosecution show probable cause to revoke her release. He instead requested Seibert impose a bond in Lunsford’s case and place her on house arrest.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Parr sought to have Lunsford jailed while awaiting a final hearing. Parr said the man was hiding in Lunsford’s closet during one of her in-home meetings with federal probation officers.

Seibert was convinced Lunsford is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community, but said he is also convinced she will not abide by the term of her supervised release forbidding her from seeing the man.

“What can I do? Help me out,” an exasperated Seibert implored Lunsford.

She echoed her attorney’s request for bond and house arrest, and guaranteed she would have no further contact with the man. Lunsford started crying as she reminded the judge that she is pregnant, and said she does not want to give birth while incarcerated. Seibert said he understood that concern.

Lunsford subsequently posted bond and was released from the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville.

Lunsford’s daughter, Aliayah, was 3 years old when she went missing in Lewis County in September 2011. The girl has never been found, and no one has been charged in her disappearance.

Earlier this year, Kornbrath successfully petitioned to keep Lunsford on supervised release in Wheeling. Probation officers wanted to relocate her to the Clarksburg area, again for alleged parole violations. But Kornbrath argued that Lunsford is a “social pariah” in the Clarksburg area because of her daughter’s case, and she would be unable to find work or a place to live there.

Senior U.S. Probation Officer Daniel E. Fugate permitted Lunsford to stay in Wheeling after her mental health treatment provider determined that relocating her would have an adverse effect, court documents state.

Lunsford’s other six children are in state care, and the West Virginia Supreme Court has upheld a Lewis County judge’s order terminating her parental rights.