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UPDATE: Lunsford Conaway's ex-husband: 'We took bath salts' night Aliayah was allegedly struck

(WDTV)
Published: Apr. 18, 2018 at 10:59 AM EDT
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UPDATE

The ex-husband of Lena Lunsford Conaway claims he and his then-wife used bath salts the night police allege Lunsford-Conaway hit her three-year-old daughter Aliayah with a wooden slab from a bed board.

Ralph Lunsford testified on the witness stand Wednesday, as he recalled the events of September 23-24, 2011.

Lunsford said that he, Lena, and their children drove in a van to buy bath salts at a head shop in Clarksburg.

Later that night, Lunsford said, he and Lena used the bath salts. He had a beer and then went to bed.

He said he woke up the next morning, at about 5:30 or 6 a.m., and left for work.

A co-worker at the time testified Wednesday that he picked up Lunsford and drove him home from work on September 24.

Lunsford arrived home shortly before Lena pulled up in the van beside him. He said she asked him if he had seen Aliayah. When he told her he hadn't, he asked her if she called 911.

Lunsford Conaway would later tell police that she first noticed Aliayah was missing at about 9 or 9:30 a.m. The first 911 call didn't come until 11:31 a.m.

Some of Lunsford's testimony mirrored that of several law enforcement officials. Like police, he said he noticed that two of his daughters lacked any emotion and that "it was like they were programmed."

D.C., who was nine at the time, testified earlier this week. She claimed that she witnessed her mother strike Aliayah in the head, and then ushered her and her sister into the van the next morning to dispose of Aliayah's body in a wooded area near Vadis.

Lunsford also painted a grim picture of the relationship between Lena and Aliayah. He claimed that Lena treated Aliayah differently than the other children and punished her in a much harsher manner.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Tom Dyer raised questions about Lunsford's credibility. Dyer brought up Lunsford's history of domestic abuse and pointed out that he spent a decent amount of time at a second home in Vadis.

Lunsford, who was not Aliayah's biological father, vehemently denied any role in her disappearance or presumed death. He said that many of his arguments with Lena revolved around her treatment of Aliayah, and that he would spend time at his house in Vadis when Lena kicked him out.

Earlier in the day, the jury heard an audio recording of an interview police conducted with Lunsford Conaway in the immediate aftermath of Aliayah's disappearance.

At the outset of the interview, she can be heard railing against media coverage of the disappearance and venting about gossip in the community.

The attention eventually turned to Aliayah. Her mother said Aliayah "is a good kid" and has the "most beautiful eyes."

At one point in the tape, a law enforcement official suggested whatever happened to Aliayah could have been an accident.

Lunsford Conaway shoots back: "I did not do anything intentionally or unintentionally to my daughter."

Aliayah's body has never been found, and the defense has pointed that out in an attempt to poke holes in the state's theory. Without a body, Dyer has argued, there is no evidence of a cause of death.

ORIGINAL STORY

In the days after she first reported her three-year-old daughter Aliayah missing, Lena Lunsford expressed concern about her perception in the eye of the media and the public.

Now referred to by her married name, Lunsford Conaway listened in court Wednesday morning, as the prosecution played an audio recording of a September 2011 interview conducted by police.

Sitting in a motel room where the Lunsford family was staying during the initial search for Aliayah, Lunsford Conaway can be heard venting about the public’s growing interest in herself and her family.

Lunsford Conaway, who was about eight months pregnant at the time, cited an erroneous news report that claimed she was in labor. Much of her ire, though, appeared to be aimed at what she perceived were attacks on her character.

“It seems like these people would rather trash-talk [than help],” she says at one point in the interview.

Lunsford Conaway even goes as far as to suggest the whispers in the community and online were impeding the investigation into Aliayah’s disappearance.

“Ignorant people are stalling the investigation,” she claims, before a FBI agent and state trooper in the room remind her that police are focused on finding Aliayah.

State Police Sergeant T.M. Divita, who can be heard conducting the interview, was on the witness stand Wednesday.

She also interviewed two of Lunsford Conaway’s other daughters in the aftermath of Aliayah’s disappearance.

Divita recalled that the girls, who were 9 and 11 at the time, “seemed to be reading off a script” and that they appeared to be “afraid of their mother.”

The testimony mirrored that of Sergeant Shannon Loudin, who also testified yesterday that the girls lacked emotion during his interview with them, and that they seemed to be “numb.”

The two girls came forward in October 2016 to allege that they saw their mother strike Aliayah in the head with a wooden slab from a bed board, on the night of September 23, 2011.

D.C., the younger of the two girls, testified Monday that their mother ordered them into the van the next morning. She alleges that Lunsford Conaway drove them to Vadis and disposed of Aliayah’s body in a wooded area.

In an emotional testimony, she claimed that she didn’t come forward initially because she was frightened her mother would retaliate.

Defense attorney Tom Dyer has pushed back on the state’s theory, noting that a body has never been found and that without one, a cause of death cannot be confirmed.