WESTON — The other children knew what happened but were too frightened to come forward in the immediate aftermath of Aliayah Lunsford’s death, Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Christina Flanagan told jurors Monday.
She also brought testimony from the adoptive father of one of the witnesses and the former Lewis County Sheriff’s deputy assigned to the Lunsford case when they first believed it was a missing person’s case.
The defense, meanwhile, simply asked jurors to keep an open mind throughout the entirety of the expected two week trial.
DC, an older sister of Aliayah Lunsford, testified that she saw Lena Lunsford strike Aliayah Lunsford with the slab of a wooden bedpost on the night of September 23, 2011.
“I saw the strike with my own two eyes,” she told the court Monday morning.
Her testimony continued through most of the morning, detailing the events of Sept. 23 and 24, which included allegations that Lena Lunsford hit Aliayah Lunsford with the blunt object, that Aliayah was still alive but non-responsive Sept. 24, and that she was eventually hidden in a clothing hamper.
“I know where Aliayah is,” DC recounted telling her adoptive father while they were out one day.
DC told Craig Cole, who testified later that morning, that Aliayah’s remains were in a rural unincorporated community in Lewis County called Vadis.
During Craig Cole’s tearful testimony, he said DC told him Oct.17, 2016 — more than five years after Aliayah’s disappearance.
He said DC was “afraid that Lena would track her down and kill her.”
Former Lewis County Sheriff’s deputy Mike Posey took the stand Monday afternoon, recounting the first few days of the investigation.
After failing to find anything indicating a break-in at the home, Posey issued a “be on the lookout” (BOLO) for Aliayah Lunsford.
“Once we couldn’t find the child, it became pretty hectic pretty quick,” he told the court.
Posey and other officers took pictures of the Lunsford’s Bendale home and took video footage from nearby businesses. They also spoke with neighbors.
He said the accounts from the video footage and neighbors made him begin to question the official story from Lena Lunsford.
Lunsford called 911 on September 24, issuing the plea: “Please help me find her.”
But Posey said time stamps on video from nearby businesses indicate the Lunsford van was out hours before the 911 call — and inconsistent with the times she told police she was searching for Aliayah.
Earlier in the day, DC told the court that the entire family was with Lena Lunsford when Aliayah’s remains were disposed of in Vadis.
Statements from neighbors also caused him to become suspicious. Posey said neighbors hadn’t heard Lena Lunsford out searching for the child or calling her name, directly contradicting one of Lunsford’s statements to police.
After the jury heard the 911 call, they then were shown a two-hour interview between Lunsford and authorities at the State Police Barracks, in Weston.
That interview was conducted Sept. 26, 2011, two days after Aliayah was first reported missing. Posey told the court something felt wrong with the case.
“We were in the mindset that something was afoul,” he said.
They read Lena Lunsford her Miranda Rights in the belief she may incriminate herself during the interview.
The interview, at times, was extremely testy, Posey said. Police accused her of lying or at least withholding information. Posey believed Lunsford knew more than she was telling police, but she kept saying she didn’t know anything.
Posey is expected to return to the stand today.
In earlier testimony, DC also suggested that Lena Lunsford treated Aliayah much worse than the other children while she was alive.
“She was in trouble a lot and was made to drink salt water,” DC said.
“I assumed it was because Lena was jealous of the relationship Aliayah held with her grandma.”
There were other signs Aliayah was being singled out, DC said.
“Whenever we’d eat, she wasn’t allowed to eat at the same time. Sometimes she would get to eat after. Sometimes she would not.”
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. today.