Mother Behind Bars Again

WHEELING – U.S. marshals arrested Lena Lunsford on Wednesday, marking the third time the woman has been jailed for violating a judge’s order to avoid the convicted felon who fathered her unborn child.

Lunsford initially was arrested and served eight months for welfare fraud after her 3-year-old daughter, Aliayah, went missing in Lewis County in September 2011. The girl has never been found, and no one has been charged in her disappearance. Lunsford began serving probation on Feb. 26 – living at the Wheeling YWCA, attending West Virginia Business College and working at a pizza shop – and has six more months to go.

But prosecutors are seeking to revoke Lunsford’s bond and keep her in the Northern Regional Jail.

U.S. marshals arrested Lunsford twice within two weeks this summer for allegedly contacting a convicted felon and failing to pay restitution. Lunsford met the man at a halfway house in Wheeling, where she was placed after being released from prison. She is pregnant with his child, court documents state.

Federal Magistrate Judge James Seibert twice released Lunsford, convinced she is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. But he was not convinced she would abide by the terms of her supervised release and would continue to see the man whose child she is carrying.

U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld said in a motion Tuesday that she has continued to have contact with the man, leading to her most recent arrest.

Lunsford’s parental rights were terminated by the West Virginia courts, and her six other children are in state custody. Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Alex Neville said Lunsford has not yet delivered what will soon be her eighth child.

Probation officials had planned to relocate her to the Clarksburg area after she missed classes and violated other conditions of her release, but Senior U.S. Probation Officer Daniel E. Fugate permitted Lunsford to stay in Wheeling after her mental health treatment provider determined that relocating her would have an adverse effect, court documents state.