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Mom of missing W.Va. girl won't be relocated

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. -- The mother of a missing West Virginia girl can remain in Wheeling to serve the remainder of her supervised release for welfare fraud.

U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey on Monday approved a modified supervised release plan for Lena Lunsford that allows her to remain in Wheeling.

The modifications requested by Senior U.S. Probation Officer Daniel E. Fugate require Lunsford to pay $480 in back rent and fees to the YWCA in Wheeling, where she has been living, maintain satisfactory attendance and complete her course of study at West Virginia Business College, and participate in mental health and substance abuse counseling and treatment.

Lunsford also is barred from having contact with a convicted felon whom she met during her placement at a halfway house in Wheeling after she was released from prison earlier this year. Fugate said in a court filing last week that Lunsford is pregnant with his child.

The U.S. Probation Office in Wheeling had planned to relocate Lunsford to the Clarksburg area. Fugate said she violated conditions of her original release plan by missing classes at the college, having unauthorized contact with the convicted felon and being terminated from a YWCA program in which she was required to participate, according to court documents.

But Fugate said in the court filing that he will agree to Lunsford staying in Wheeling because her treatment provider determined that relocating her would have an adverse effect.

The Exponent Telegram first reported the modified release plan.

Lunsford was freed from a federal prison earlier this year after serving eight months for welfare fraud.

Weeks after her daughter, Aliayah Lunsford, disappeared in September 2011, Lena Lunsford was indicted on charges that she illegally swapped welfare benefits for cash five times in two months. She pleaded guilty to selling $114 worth of credit on her food-stamp card for $50 cash and reported to prison in June 2012.

Lunsford's lawyer, public defender Brian J. Kornbrath, had opposed relocating her, saying she is a "social pariah'' in the Clarksburg area because of publicity surrounding her daughter's case.

Aliayah Lunsford was 3 when she went missing from her family's home near Bendale in Lewis County in September 2011. Aliayah has never been found, and authorities have made no arrests and identified no suspects.

Lena 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 said in a court filing earlier this month that moving Lena Lunsford to the Clarksburg area would undercut her chances of succeeding while she is on supervised release. He said it would be difficult for her to find a job and she has nowhere to live.

 


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