Mother suspected of abandoning her toddler in Riverside grocery store is arrested

A woman suspected of abandoning her 2-year-old daughter in a Riverside grocery store was arrested late Tuesday afternoon after a bank teller recognized her face from news reports.

The arrest of Chiengkham Vilaysane at a Riverside bank draws an end to the intense search for the woman, who was last seen in a Food 4 Less supermarket on Sunday night.

Vilaysane, 31, who may also go by “Cindy,” walked into the grocery store in the 4000 block of Van Buren Boulevard and brought along her daughter, according to Riverside Police Det. Paul Miranda.

At some point the girl wandered off. Police said Vilaysane continued shopping and never searched for her.


A good Samaritan spotted the girl and took her to Vilaysane. When presented with her daughter, police said that Vilaysane responded, “Oh, just leave her.”

Chiengkham Vilaysane, 31, of Riverside
(Riverside Police Department)

Vilaysane then paid for her groceries and intentionally left the store without her daughter, police said.

“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” Miranda said. “I think that’s what struck a nerve.”


When the girl was shown a photograph from surveillance camera footage, she identified Vilaysane as “Mommy,” police said.

According Miranda, the girl was not reported missing and is in the custody of the Riverside County Department of Child Protective Services.

“She is a little bit shaken up,” the detective said.

The girl appears to be in good health and showed no obvious signs of trauma, he said.


On Monday night, police released surveillance video showing Vilaysane walking through the grocery store with the girl. At the time, her identity was not known. But viewers recognized Vilaysane and provided information about her to detectives, Miranda said.

Vilaysane was recently kicked out of her family home, he said. Police believed Vilaysane could have been in Riverside or Hemet.

Miranda said Vilaysane walked into a bank in Riverside about 5 p.m. and was recognized by the teller, who notified police.

Patrol officers took Vilaysane into custody, and she was booked on suspicion of child endangerment, child neglect and being under the influence of controlled substances.


Vilaysane has had run-ins before with law enforcement for drug- and alcohol-related offenses and has previously been placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, Miranda said.

Since the video was released, the department has received an outpouring of support from people interested in adopting the girl, he said.

To read the article in Spanish, click here

Times staff writer Matt Hamilton contribued to this report.


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7:00 p.m.: This story was updated with confirmation that the mother was arrested by police.

This article was originally published at 2:30 p.m.