Day 4 of Lunsford Conaway trial: Defense explores connection between motorcycle gang and Aliayah’s disappearance

Published: Apr. 19, 2018 at 1:10 PM EDT
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On the fourth day of Lena Lunsford Conaway’s murder trial, defense attorney Tom Dyer questioned a corporal with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department about a possible connection between an outlaw motorcycle gang and three-year-old Aliayah’s disappearance.

Called to the witness stand by the prosecution, Corporal E.E. Carpenter testified Thursday about his experience as the department’s case agent on the investigation, dating back to 2014.

Carpenter recalled that in June 2016, he received a call from a Harrison County Sheriff’s deputy, Pat McCarty, regarding two people tied to the motorcycle gang known as the “Pagans.”

McCarty advised Carpenter that he arrested one of the men on a DUI charge. During the course of the arrest, he said, the man mentioned something about Aliayah’s disappearance.

Carpenter said he spoke to both of the men in question, but that it soon became apparent that they had no useful information to provide nor did they have any connection to Aliayah’s disappearance.

The corporal testified that the DUI suspect said he never made a statement to McCarty about Aliayah.

Carpenter said he also spoke to a woman who claimed to know about the “Pagans” and the group’s link to a young girl.

She recalled seeing a young girl at a party and thought that the situation was odd, Carpenter said.

However, when the woman spoke with police, she said she didn’t recognize the girl to have a resemblance to Aliayah.

Under cross-examination, Dyer asked the corporal if he had ever heard about a link between the “Pagans” and human trafficking. Carpenter said he hadn’t.

Dyer reminded the court that motorcycle gangs have supposedly used children as collateral when trying to collect on drug debts.

Dyer also brought up the possibility that given the tough mentality of motorcycle gangs, it’s possible the two men police questioned didn’t want to “snitch,” out of fear.

Prosecuting attorney Christina Flanigan used a brief re-direct to suggest the theory about the motorcycle gang did not hold water. To prove that, she asked Carpenter again about the DUI arrest. Carpenter said that it occurred November of 2015, but McCarty didn’t inform Carpenter about the statement until June 2016.

Earlier Thursday morning, Flanigan called several neighbors of Lunsford to the witness stand.

Five neighbors who live on Dennison Street, the same street where the Lunsford family lived, and one neighbor who lives on Armory Road all testified about the morning of September 24, 2011.

The six neighbors all said they didn’t notice anything unusual that morning. They also said they never saw Aliayah or anyone looking for a missing girl.

In the aftermath of Aliayah’s disappearance, Lena Lunsford Conaway told police that she searched the area around Bendale for about two hours.

Video surveillance nearby, however, captured the family van leaving Dennison Street at 9:13 a.m. The van is not shown again until 11:27 a.m. The first 911 call reporting Aliayah’s disappearance case at 11:31 a.m.