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Family: Non-custodial mom kidnaps daughter off Rochester school bus, flies to San Diego

November 17, 2017 11:30 PM

The family of a five-year-old girl in Rochester is frantically trying to find her.

The family tells News10NBC that the girl's non-custodial, biological mother took her daughter off her school bus Wednesday afternoon and eventually flew to San Diego. That's where the family believes the mother and daughter are right now.

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The family says the mother, Renee Stong, is schizophrenic. The daughter's name is Laylani Ortiz. Her family calls her "Lily."

Rochester Police say Lily is three-feet-tall and 40 pounds. She was last seen wearing khaki pants, white polo shirt, orange and grey sneakers.

Chief Michael Ciminelli, Rochester Police: This is a top priority for us and we're going to everything we can to find this girl.
Brean: Do you believe she's in California? 
Chief: I'm not going to comment on any specifics. You getting the word out can be very helpful. But if we get too specific it's going to make it harder to find the child. 

The family says the mother took an Uber car to her daughter's school -- Exploration Charter School on Lake Avenue. The family says the mother, Renee Stong, pulled her daughter off the school bus. The family says she was not authorized to do that. The family says Stong hired the Uber to take her and her daughter to the Greater Rochester International Airport. 

The family shared two photos of the car that took Stong and her daughter from school to the airport. The pictures are snapshots from the school's security video. 

The family says Stong was seen on security camera buying a ticket at the Delta counter. The family says Stong and her daughter took one of two flights from Rochester to Detroit Wednesday evening. The family says Stong and her daughter stayed in Detroit overnight and then flew from Detroit to San Diego Thursday morning. 

The family says they learned this on Thursday. But it's possible if an Amber Alert was issued Wednesday, Stong and her daughter could have been stopped at the airports in Detroit or San Diego. 
     
Chief Ciminelli: The Rochester Police Department did reach out to the Amber Alert coordinator that is through the New York State Police and information was relayed and at the time it did not meet the criteria. 

Here's the official criteria: 

There has to be an abducted child "in danger of serious bodily harm or death." The criteria continues: "Familial abductions qualify only if a child is endangered by the actions of the abducting family member."

Lily's family told me Renee Stong is schizophrenic and had no legal right to take her daughter. 
     
Brean: How does that not meet the definition of an Amber Alert? 
Chief Ciminelli: Okay, again, I'm not going to get into those specifics. We don't make the final decision on the Amber Alert.

I reached out to the state police. State police say they became aware of the case about 24 hours after Lily went missing. Troopers say they reached out to the RPD to offer help. State police say at no time was an Amber Alert requested, so now we have more questions for RPD.

At the same time, Rochester police are working with the FBI to try to find five-year-old Lily.

The family says United State Border Patrol and Customs are aware of the situation and are on alert if Stong tries to cross the border into Mexico. The family says officials at the San Diego airport are aware as well and have pictures of Stong and Lily. 

The family says Lily's father is not involved because he is currently in jail in Tampa, Florida. 

News10NBC is contacting the NBC News affiliate in San Diego. We asked Greater Rochester Airport to share images from the airport security video that shows Stong and her daughter at the airport. The airport administration directed us to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office which patrols the airport. The Sheriff's office directed us to the RPD which is the investigating agency. RPD said we have to request the footage through a Freedom of Information request. 

We are also reaching out to officials at the Detroit and San Diego airports.

"I know she loves her child, but she is not mentally stable to take care of her," says Inez Tores, Lily's granddaughter. "The bus driver says, 'oh she says she was the mom, she looked like her so I gave her to her.'"

"I said 'you have court papers, she's not supposed to leave with her. We specifically talked about that,'" Tores explains to News10NBC. "Every time I went to her house there was never any food, the baby was dirty. One day her sister was there and she said I'm calling Child Protective Services. I said I was going to do the same thing."

Tores has had custody of her granddaughter almost since birth. Tores says she's a special child. "Oh my gosh, she's beautiful. She's shy, she loves to dance and sing. She always says she's a princess."

Tores has reason to believe Lily and her mother are in California. "We have confirmed the child and the mother are in San Diego. We're working with authorities to coordinating, trying to get her return," says Catherine Josh, the family's attorney. 

Josh says it has been difficult working with authorities both near and far to get information. "I don't know what else to say. I just want her home safe."

Credits

Berkeley Brean

Copyright 2017 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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