COLUMBIA -- A former college student who became depressed and erratic after becoming a mother is charged with lying about where her missing 18-month-old son has been for more than a month, police said Wednesday.
Authorities said they were desperately searching for Amir Jennings after his 22-year-old mother, Zinah Jennings, told them several inconsistent and false stories about the boy being with relatives and friends in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.
"I'm trying to stay optimistic about this," Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott said Wednesday. "But short of being optimistic, this case bothers me."
The mother and son were reported missing in early December, but the mother turned up after she was involved in a car accident on Christmas Eve.
Scott said officers hope a tip line and media exposure will lead to more information.
"I want someone to call us and say, 'We just saw this on the news, we have Amir, we're sorry, we didn't realize this was going on,'" he said. "Her stories are so across the board that our search right now is from Charlotte to Atlanta."
Investigators said they hoped Amir Jennings was alive but they weren't getting much help from his mother. In early December, grandmother Jocelyn Jennings Nelson reported her own daughter missing.
According to an incident report, Jennings had had a car wreck several days before and had been making "cryptic phone calls to other family members indicating her ongoing fight with depression is continuing."