The little girl was crying, says Laneisha Massey.
Massey, a 25-year-old employee at the Valero convenience store near Newborn Road in Rutledge, says an 8-year-old girl approached the store door, covered in sweat and panic, reached out and shoved her hand to him. gave a hug. “I grabbed her hand and told her she was going to be fine.” She was crying, she was hungry and she was confused. Her mother passed out in the car.
She gave the child water and snacks.
And she clung to the girl. By then, she said, she was determined to take care of the child who had randomly arrived at the store on Saturday, August 7.
Massey walked over to the car, a Cadillac SUV that had been at the pump for over an hour. Inside, according to reports from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, was the child’s mother, Chelsy Noel Tillman, 35, of Atlanta. Massey says that when she opened the driver’s side door, Tillman had the seat stretched out and appeared to be sleeping. “She had the car seat stretched out and she didn’t have it anymore,” Massey says.
Massey says she almost got angry. The vehicle was hot and the air conditioning was either turned off or not working. Massey says she thought of the child sitting in the vehicle for over an hour, in the heat. “To keep my cool, I told her I was taking her daughter to the store.”
She did so and called 911. When Deputy Christopher Lash arrived around 5:30 pm, he located a disoriented Tillman sitting behind the wheel of the Cadillac. Reports say Tillman’s speech was inarticulate, but she said “they had it”, referring to her daughter in the store. Massey said when opening the driver’s side door to tell the woman she was taking her daughter, “she woke up and the first thing she said was ‘It’s hot …'”
As Massey watched Lash work, she says she kept the child engaged. The little girl loved 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 this morning, Tillman allegedly drank vodka and cranberry juice. Reports say Lash found several empty vodka bottles in the vehicle.
The child told Massey her mother picked her up that morning to go to a poolside party, but the party never came to fruition. Ever since they pulled into the store, the child told Massey, her family had been driving frantically around Atlanta to Valero stores in search of the mother and child.
The child’s stepfather arrived and picked up the child. Tillman was arrested on charges of impaired driving and endangering children and transported to Morgan County Detention Center.
The little girl was safe, thanks in large part to Massey’s actions, and Massey said she watched the child go with all her heart.
“If I had been a little girl in this situation, I would like someone to do the same,” Massey says.
“I just let God use me.”