Riverside mother accused of abandoning child at store may have mental health issues, judge says

A Riverside mother pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges accusing her of abandoning her 2-year-old daughter in a grocery store, officials said.

Chiengkham Vilaysane, 31, is charged with a felony count of desertion of a child younger than 14 and a misdemeanor count of child endangerment, according to the Riverside County district attorney's office.


Riverside Superior Court Judge Samuel Diaz Jr. declined to release Vilaysane on her own recognizance after she couldn't provide a home address to the Riverside County Probation Department, said John Hall, a spokesman for the district attorney's office. She remained in custody on $10,000 bail.

At a hearing on Monday, Diaz indicated that Vilaysane may have possible mental health issues, Hall said.

Diaz explained that an evaluation, which was requested by Vilaysane's attorneys last week, also showed that she had been on methamphetamine, the Press-Enterprise reported. He considered releasing Vilaysane on her own recognizance, but only under supervision and a proof of address.

Riverside police launched an investigation into Vilaysane on March 12 when they said she left her daughter at a Food 4 Less supermarket in the 4000 block of Van Buren Boulevard.

The mother and daughter walked into the Riverside store together that evening. When the girl wandered off, Vilaysane continued shopping and never searched for her, Riverside police Det. Paul Miranda said.

A good Samaritan spotted the girl and handed her to Vilaysane, who responded, "Oh, just leave her," police said.

Vilaysane then paid for her groceries and left the store without her daughter, police said. She never reported the girl missing, Miranda said.

Hoping to find the girl's mother, police showed the toddler a photograph from surveillance camera footage. The girl identified Vilaysane as "Mommy," he said.

Police released surveillance video of Vilaysane so that the public could help locate her. On March 14, Vilaysane walked into a bank in Riverside, and a teller recognized her from news reports. The teller notified police, and Vilaysane was arrested.

The girl is in the custody of the Riverside County Children's Services Division. Vilaysane has an 8-year-old child who lives with the father, the Press-Enterprise reported.

Vilaysane's family told the newspaper she was a good mother and insisted that something must happened to compel her to leave her child.

Riverside police have said Vilaysane was kicked out of her family home, and they didn't know where she was living.

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3:30 p.m.: This article was updated with Chiengkham Vilaysane pleading not guilty.

This article was originally published at 12:05 p.m.