Pauline Williams said Tuesday that she had left her daughter, Imani, in her car at the curb in front of the store, near Interstate 40 and N.C. Highway 210. Williams dashed into the store for hand soap, never considering the potential danger, she said.
Imani said she locked the doors and then saw a man at the driver's side window. The man told her to "open the door" and that he was "a nice man," Imani said.
The man then came to the passenger side, where she was sitting, and banged on her window.
"He was jerking on the handle, and he said, 'Open the door before I kill you,'" Imani said. "I was scared, very scared."
Imani said the man finally gave up, ran to a sport-utility vehicle and took off. She ran into the store for help.
Williams said she had been in the store for only a few minutes when her daughter told her, "'Mama, a man tried to get me.'"
"I was terrified," Williams said. "Then I was just more greatly appreciative to know that my daughter was still with me, because, I mean, just the thought."
Deputies described the suspect as a 30-year-old white man, about 6 feet tall with a medium build. He had blond hair and facial hair. The Johnson County Sheriff's Office said it has no other leads in the case.
Under North Carolina law, it is not illegal leave an older child unattended in a car.
Williams said she is proud of her daughter's ability to take care of herself, but she learned a valuable lesson.
"It was more like a wake-up call. ... I don't ever want to do that again," Williams said. "If you think about it, hand soap is worth $2, versus her life."