Mother of missing girl fights relocation effort
WHEELING, W.Va. -- A federal judge will hear arguments later this month on a plan to move the mother of a missing West Virginia girl from Wheeling to the Clarksburg area, where she says publicity about the disappearance has made her a "social pariah.''
U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey has scheduled a status hearing for May 23 in Wheeling.
Lena Lunsford was freed from a federal prison earlier this year after serving eight months for welfare fraud and was placed on one year of supervised release. But federal probation officials now want to move her, and Lunsford is opposing the relocation.
She's been living at a YWCA, attending West Virginia Business College and working at a pizza shop, public defender Brian Kornbrath said. She's also now pregnant with her eighth child.
Three-year-old Aliayah Lunsford went missing in September 2011 from a rented home near Bendale in Lewis County. Authorities have never found the toddler or charged anyone in connection with the disappearance.
Lena Lunsford has denied involvement in the disappearance and any knowledge of what happened to her daughter.
Lunsford's other six children are in state care, and the state Supreme Court has upheld a Lewis County judge's order terminating her parental rights.
Kornbrath says the U.S. Probation Office ordered Lunsford to relocate to serve her remaining nine months because she can't afford to pay the rent owed to the YWCA.
He contends moving Lunsford will undercut her chances of succeeding. It would be difficult for her to find a job and she has nowhere to live, he said.