Aliayah Lunsford missing for five years on Saturday

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WESTON, W.Va (WDTV) - Saturday marks five years since Aliayah Lunsford, from Weston, was first reported missing. She was three-years-old at the time.

Authorities have not identified any leads or suspects and the investigation is still active.

Patty Phillips said search crews would often come into her restaurant, Pat & Gene's, which was near Aliayah's home. She remembers volunteers and law enforcement officials working tirelessly for the first few months after she was reported missing. However, over time, she noticed the mood changing.

"They said they thought she was dead," Phillips remembered.

Several neighbors expressed similar sentiments. Speaking to 5 News off camera, they said they were suspicious of Aliayah's mother and step-father, and the role they might have played in her disappearance. Neither have been charged with any crime in relation to the case.

Aliayah's mother, Lena Lunsford, has spent time in prison since the disappearance for welfare fraud.

Lunsford told police she last saw her daughter in her bed in Bendale, a small community outside of Weston. The Lewis County Sheriff's Department says they do not have any current leads.

"As it went on, I couldn't imagine anybody in this small town just vanishing, and nobody finding out what happened to her or anything," said Rose Neal, a Weston resident.

Some are still holding onto hope.

"I just keep thinking maybe she's alive somewhere or something, you know," said Neal. "I would hope she's safe, but to just lose track of her like that...I just don't know how it could happen."

"I think we should continue with the investigation and continue with any leads," said Debrah Hartman, who lived in Weston at the time. "Maybe somebody knows something...hopefully they would come forward."

Five years later, people say Weston has become even more unified.

"This is a pretty close-knit town, and I think everybody tries to help out and stick together," said Neal.

Some still turn to prayer.

"Because of my faith, I think you just continue to pray and have hope and hope she'll be found soon," said Lisa Marlow, a Weston resident.

According to the 'Help Find Aliayah Lunsford' Facebook page, a prayer vigil will be held Saturday evening at 6 p.m. at Jackson Mill Baptist Church in Weston.

If you have any information regarding this case, you're urged to call police or The Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.