WESTON, W.Va. — Lena Lunsford Conaway, sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole for the 2011 death of her 3-year-old daughter Aliayah, contends the local jury that convicted her was biased.
“With all due respect, I feel there was no possible way I could get a fair trial in Lewis County,” she said.
Lewis County Circuit Court Judge Jake Reger handed down the life sentence for murder of a child by failure to provide necessities, of which Lunsford was convicted April 23.
Lunsford also received the maximum sentence of 40 years for death of a child by child abuse. A separate child abuse conviction carries a two- to 10-year sentence, and Lunsford also received one to five years for concealment of a human body.
Reger ruled that the sentences will be served consecutively.
Craig Cole, the adoptive father of Lunsford’s six other children, was relieved to see Lunsford dealt the maximum sentence.
“It’s been a long journey for our family, and we’re just really glad to have it finished and be able to officially put this behind us,” Cole said. “I’m very relieved to know that Lena will never be able to do harm to another child again.”
During the trial, Cole testified that his adopted daughters Kiara and D.C. took several years to come forward with the accusation because they feared Lunsford and what she may do if they recounted the events of that night. The girls were ages 9 and 11 the night they claim their mother fatally struck Aliayah with a wooden bed slat. They testified that Lunsford disposed of the toddler’s body in a rural area.
“Our concern for the last six years is keeping the girls safe, and it’s just really nice to know that they will continue to be safe,” Cole said.
Following Reger’s decisions, Lunsford said she remains hopeful she will be granted a new trial elsewhere — action her defense attorney, Tom Dyer, has requested in post-trial motions to no avail.
“I feel that I bent over backwards to make sure we had a fair and impartial jury,” Reger said.
Cole said he was disappointed to hear that was Lunsford’s only reaction to sentencing, rather than having any remorse for her crimes.
“The legal team, the law enforcement team, from what I have seen, they went above and beyond. They wanted to make sure that she had a fair trial from day one that we got involved. That was their concern,” Cole said. “I think it just shows that she doesn’t want to take accountability for her actions.”
Dyer previously told MetroNews he expects to keep fighting all the way to the state Supreme Court.
However, Cole said Monday’s outcome brought closure the family needed, considering Aliayah’s body has never been located.
“Right now, as far as we’re concerned it’s finished,” he said. “We’re just going to put it behind us and just continue on with the Aliayah Lunsford Foundation. To us, that’s really want we want to do is just memorialize Aliayah, to make sure that her story continues to get told and that she’s never forgotten.”