Zinah Jennings, South Carolina mother, found guilty of unlawful conduct in missing toddler case
(CBS/AP) COLUMBIA, S.C. - A South Carolina jury convicted Zinah Jennings guilty on Friday for refusing to tell authorities about the whereabouts of her missing toddler Amir, who disappeared last year.
The 23-year-old mother was given the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison after she was convicted guilty of unlawful conduct. The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for about 2 and-a-half hours before issuing its decision.
Amir was 18 months old when he was last seen in November. Police said Jennings repeatedly lied to them about the boy's location, telling false tales that led them to search places from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C.
Jennings did not testify in her own defense, but police said she told them that she left her son somewhere safe but wouldn't give any further details.
Prosecution witnesses testified during Jennings' two-week trial that the mother said she was stressed and needed a break from the boy. Jennings gave birth to a daughter last week.
One friend said Jennings told her she pondered selling or giving away the boy and even mentioned throwing him out the window of a moving car. Jennings' mother said she doesn't believe her daughter would have ever harmed Amir.
Several witnesses for the prosecution testified that they saw Jennings kick Amir when he misbehaved or squeeze his hand when he wouldn't say "mama." Amir and his mother were taped on security video at a Columbia bank, where employees testified that Amir was often not in a car seat when his mother pulled up at a drive-through window.
Prosecutors also played audio from Jennings' lengthy interview with police after her arrest in late December. In it, the young mother cried as she said her son was safe but that she couldn't prove to authorities that he was alive.
"Prove to me your child is alive," police Sgt. Arthur Thomas says.
"I can't," Jennings replied.
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