COLUMBIA, S.C. — The mother of a South Carolina toddler missing since Thanksgiving was arrested in Georgia and accused of prostitution shortly before her son disappeared, according to police records.
Zinah Jennings, 22, was arrested by East Point, Ga., police in November after she offered sex to an undercover officer, police said in a report obtained by The Associated Press.
Clad in a short skirt, Jennings "appeared to be trying to get the attention of every passing motorist" when an undercover officer saw her Nov. 9, the report said. The officer approached Jennings, who agreed to take $40 in exchange for sex. She also faces a marijuana charge.
Jennings had been staying with a half-sister, Denise Jennings, in the Atlanta area for three weeks before her Nov. 9 arrest. East Point is just south of Atlanta.
On the day Zinah Jennings was arrested, her half-sister reported her missing, telling police that she had left her home and suffered from "schizophrenic tendencies" that had not been diagnosed.
Zinah Jennings has been in jail in Columbia since late December, charged with lying to authorities about where her son is. Amir Jennings was 18 months old when his grandmother said she last saw him over Thanksgiving.
The grandmother, Jocelyn Jennings Nelson, has said her headstrong daughter frequently traveled to visit relatives and friends in the Carolinas and Georgia but had been depressed since the birth of her son. Nelson said she reported Jennings and the boy missing last month after becoming concerned during their visit to Atlanta.
"I was assured by both her sister and her that, 'Everything is fine.'" Nelson said.
After Zinah Jennings and her son were reported missing, police looked for them but also took into consideration relatives' statements that she had repeatedly left town for days at a time. On Christmas Eve, police investigating a one-car wreck just blocks from Jennings' home were surprised to find the driver was the young mother they'd been searching for.
Interviewed at a hospital, Jennings gave conflicting statements about where the boy was, first telling authorities she didn't have any children before saying Amir was with friends and family in cities from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C.
After several dead ends, the mother was arrested. Authorities said they have stepped up their efforts to find the boy and are hoping a tip line and $10,000 reward will yield information. State police are analyzing stains on blankets and clothes removed from Jennings' car to see if they are blood.
Jennings had no prior arrest record in South Carolina, according to state police.
SC Crimestoppers: http://www.sccrimestoppers.com
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP