WESTON — Prosecutors in the murder trial of Lena Lunsford rested their case Friday, buoyed by emotional testimony from a second daughter recalling how Lunsford dumped the body of Aliayah Lunsford, 3, in the woods and concocted a cover-up.
The witness, identified as KC, was 11 at the time of Aliayah’s disappearance on Sept. 24, 2011, and took the stand at the Lewis County Courthouse as an 18-year-old.
Testifying just a few feet from her mother, KC joined younger sister DC, who testified Monday, in claiming they were made to “promise that we wouldn’t tell” about finding Aliayah unresponsive hours after their mother struck the toddler in the head with a wooden bed slat.
The sisters say they kept the secret for five years, out of fear for their mother, as Aliayah’s missing persons case turned cold. KC sobbed upon recalling Lena Lunsford’s favorite line: “I brought you into this world, I can take you out.”
Authorities still have not located Aliayah, though the child is presumed dead.
Describing the wooden slat as a foot-long piece broken from a set of bunk beds, KC called it “a common punishment” when Lunsford disciplined Aliayah. Whereas DC testified to witnessing the blow police deemed fatal, KC said she heard it from a room away and came in time to see their mom walking away as Aliayah struggled to get to her feet.
KC testified Aliayah’s head “felt soft” after the strike and she had difficulty remaining upright when their mother ordered the child to stand in a corner. Told to put Aliayah in bed, KC provided some Flintstones vitamins because Aliayah wasn’t always allowed to eat when she got in trouble.
Prosectors asked if Lena Lunsford was particularly mad at Aliayah that night?
“Yes,” KC said.
Very angry? “Yes.”
The next morning, KC found Aliayah unresponsive in bed. The daughters claim Lunsford tried to revive Aliayah’s breathless body via CPR before putting the child in a tub of cold water. Through the panicked and futile moments, KC suggested her mother call for help but said “every time she blew it off.”
Instead, Lena Lunsford allegedly placed Aliayah’s body in a hamper and concealed it with clothes. KC testified their mother put the hamper in the family van and drove to a remote dirt road accompanied by the other four children.
KC, the oldest, said she walked only part way into the woods before her mother, carrying the hamper, trudged further out of sight. She returned after “quite a while,” and KC said they drove away with her mother periodically tossing out some of the clothes that had been piled atop Aliayah’s body.
Back at home, KC remembered her mother “cleaning a little bit” before calling police.
When Lena Lunsford told investigators of awaking to find Aliayah missing, it set off a multi-agency hunt for the child with community volunteers pitching in. Throughout the search, KC testified she and DC were told by their mother to relate only “the storyline she had told us about Aliayah being sick all week, going to bed and waking up she wasn’t there.”
Defense attorney Tom Dyer’s cross-examination focused on Aliayah’s vomiting in previous days, raising the possibility she may have succumbed to sickness rather than the blunt force trauma prosecutors allege. Dyer pointed out how KC told police in 2016 about opting to sleep on the couch instead of the bedroom the daughters shared because Aliayah “was sicker than usual” that night.
The defense also highlighted KC clarifying her account of the fateful night after being foggy during previous interviews with police.
“That was a few years ago and memories change,” KC said. “The things that I tried to block out have come back.”
The jurors were dismissed several hours early, given the weekend to contemplate KC’s impactful testimony before the defense calls its first witness Monday.