Friends and family gather to remember Aliayah Lunsford

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It was a somber Saturday at the Bendale United Methodist Church in Weston.

Family and community members gathered to remember three-year-old Aliayah Lunsford, to find closure, and to reflect on everything that has happened.

"I made a terrible mistake, and I said that Lena had no heart and she had no soul," Vickie Bowen, Aliayah's great aunt, said. "And that's not true. We all have a soul. And we need to pray. We need to pray for closure. We need to pray for answers. And, we need to pray for justice."

In September of 2011, little Aliayah was reported missing.

Law enforcement, first responders and hundreds of volunteers searched for her throughout Weston.

It wasn't until 2016, five years later, that Aliayah's mother, Lena Lunsford, was arrested and charged with death of a child by a parent by child abuse.

Lunsford is facing charges for allegedly hitting Aliayah in the head and then not allowing anyone who saw it to help her.

Police say Lunsford then concealed her daughter's body and made up a story about her disappearance.

"Everybody right now is still very angry, they're disbelieving, they're hurt," Bowen said. "They're like 'how could you,' you know?'"

After today's memorial service, however, Aliayah's family is ready to start the healing process.

"You know its going to take a long time to heal," Bowen said. "It's going to take a long time for the community to heal. And, I think it's going to become easier once we start getting answers."

Aliayah's family is thankful for all of those involved in helping with the search and asks the community to keep them and Aliayah in their prayers.

"Keep praying," Bowen said. "Keep praying for the answers. Keep praying for the comfort."

Lunsford's preliminary hearing was scheduled for Thursday, but has been moved back to Wednesday, November 16 at 2:30 pm in Lewis County.