The little girl was crying, says Laneisha Massey.
Massey, a 25-year-old clerk at the Valero Convenience store off Newborn Road in Rutledge says when an 8-year-old girl walked up to the door of the store, covered in sweat and panic, she reached out and gave the girl a hug. ”I grabbed her by the hand and told her it would be OK.” She was crying, she was hungry and she was confused. Her mother was passed out in the car.
She gave the child water and snacks.
And she held on to the girl. In that moment, she says, she was resolved to care for the child that had randomly arrived at the store on Saturday, Aug. 7.
Massey walked to the car, a Cadillac SUV that had been sitting at pump for more than an hour. Inside, according to Morgan County Sheriff’s Office reports, was the child’s mother, Chelsy Noel Tillman, 35, of Atlanta. Massey says when she opened the driver’s side door, Tillman had the seat laid back and appeared to be asleep. “She had the car seat laid back and she was out of it,” Massey says.
Massey says she almost slipped into a rage. The vehicle was hot and the air conditioning was either not on or not functioning. Massey says she thought about the child sitting in the vehicle for more than an hour, in the heat. “To keep calm, I told her I was taking her daughter into the store.”
So she did, and she called 911. When Deputy Christopher Lash arrived at approximately 5:30 p.m., he located a disoriented Tillman seated behind the wheel of the Cadillac. Reports state that Tillman’s speech was slurred but she did state that “they had her,” referring to her daughter in the store. Massey said when she opened the driver’s side door to tell the woman that she was taking her daughter, “she woke up and the first thing she said was ‘It’s hot…’”
While Massey watched Lash work, she says she kept the child engaged. The little girl liked math at her school, she learned, she loved Massey’s blue hair, Jello Pops were her favorite treat. She also learned that while the child and Tillman had been driving since that morning, Tillman had allegedly been drinking vodka and cranberry juice. Reports state that Lash found several empty vodka bottles in the vehicle.
The child told Massey that her mother had picked her up that morning to go to a pool party but the party never materialized. Since they had parked at the store, the child told Massey, her family had been frantically driving around Atlanta to Valero stores searching for the mother and child.
The child’s step-father arrived and gathered the child. Tillman was arrested, charged with DUI and child endangerment and transported to the Morgan County Detention Center.
The little girl was safe, in large part from Massey’s actions, and Massey said she watched the child leave with a full heart.
“If I had been a little girl in that situation I would want someone to do the same thing,” Massey says.
“I just let God use me.”