[Editor’s Note: Post originally appeared on SILive.com, where I was a breaking news intern from January to August 2016.]
If there’s one thing Lianna Lee-Chong has learned about children while babysitting her little cousins, it’s kids love technology.
So the cheerful, quick-thinking 20-year-old pizza deliverywoman relied on that knowledge when she came across a 3-year-old girl wandering alone along Morningstar Road in Elm Park just after 1 a.m. Thursday without a jacket.
The child began to cry when Lee-Chong asked her for her name and where her mom was, so the Castleton Corners woman — who was making a late-night delivery for Domino’s Pizza when she encountered the girl — handed her a cellphone to calm her down.
The tactic worked.
“I’m not really good with crying babies,” she said, “because when they’re hysterically crying it freaks me out, but I know little kids love technology, so the moment I pulled out a phone she was happy.”
Lee-Chong took the phone back to call 911, then, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the case, she cared for the girl until police arrived.
She said she placed the tot in her car, gave her a jacket, and put the animated DreamWorks movie “Home” on Netflix for her to watch on the phone.
“She was happy. She wasn’t crying, she was really interested in the movie, I guess,” Lee-Chong said in an interview with the Advance. “And she was even outgoing, she wasn’t hard to deal with at all. She was super sweet. When the cops came she wasn’t scared or anything.”
Around 2 a.m., Lee-Chong was allowed to leave to return to work.
In the morning, she called the 121 Precinct stationhouse in Graniteville to find out if there were any updates on the child. She was told that they found the mom and that the 3-year-old would be okay and that she didn’t have to worry.
“It was something,” Lee-Chong said. “I feel bad for the little girl, a little bit, and the mom, mostly. I’m happy that I found her because I knew she’d be safe.”
Andrew Blanch, the manager at the Bulls Head Domino’s where Lee-Chong works, said she was one of his best employees, and described her as polite, nice, and said she is always on the lookout for others.
“I’m happy that people think of me at my best,” she said of the compliment.
Lee-Chong aspires to be a nurse.
She currently attends the College of Staten Island and is working toward earning a degree in psychology this year and plans to go for a nursing degree right after.
The mother of the 3-year-old, Gianna Young, 26, of the 2500 block of Richmond Terrace, was arrested later Thursday after she showed up at the 121 Precinct stationhouse looking for her daughter at approximately 10:15 a.m. — some nine hours after the child was found, according to allegations in court documents.
“Somebody told me you had my child,” she told cops, according to the court documents.
The woman was unaware of the child’s whereabouts for about 10 hours, police said.
Young said she has gone to a drugstore because she wasn’t feeling well and thought the baby was sleeping, a source with knowledge of the investigation said.
Young was charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
She was arraigned on Friday in Criminal Court and released on her own recognizance.
Her next court date is March 29.