Family pleads for safe return of missing toddler

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - A Columbia family is pleading for the safe return of 18-month-old Amir Jennings in its first public statements since the boy's disappearance.

On Friday, the boy's grandmother, Jocelyn Jennings Nelson and other family members spoke to reporters along with Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott.

"My family and I are requesting your support in helping us to find his location and to bring him home," said a tearful Nelson.

Roughly a mile away from that emotional plea a single missing flyer for little Amir hangs on the grandmother's front porch serving as a reminder to neighbors there to keep their eyes open for a boy they used to see play on their streets.

Amir Jennings's grandmother reported the toddler missing December 8.

"It's sad and it's also confusing because the child can't speak for himself," said concerned neighbor Leroy Brown. "Someone has to speak for him."

Neighbors want to be that voice. Many say they want to see more done to find Amir. They're considering organizing a vigil to keep his story alive. Some are even willing to go door-to-door handing out flyers to find a boy Columbia police have been searching for from North Carolina to Atlanta.

Amir's mother, Zinah Jennings initially told investigators she didn't have a son when they questioned her.

Arrest warrants provided to The Associated Press show that Jennings, 22, first told police last month she had no children before saying her son, Amir, was in Atlanta. Jennings also took investigators to a Columbia apartment complex where she said she dropped off her son later saying she didn't know the apartment number or location within the complex.

Jennings' mother says she hasn't seen Amir since Thanksgiving.

Jennings is charged with unlawful conduct toward a child after police say she told inconsistent stories about Amir's whereabouts.

She is being held on $150,000 bond at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.

Investigators also said Thursday they had used cadaver dogs to search the family's home.

"We're not taking anything to chance," said Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott. "We're not leaving any stone unturned at this point. That's why you see us doing so much on this investigation to be aggressive because Amir's out there somewhere and we're not going to stop until we find out where."

A spokeswoman for the Columbia Police Department says the missing boy's father lives in the Columbia area and has been cooperative with investigators. He is not considered a suspect.

If you have any information about Amir Jennings' disappearance, police urge you to call CrimeStoppes at 1-888-CRIME-SC.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)