Missing boy's grandmother believes child is still alive

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - Jocelyn Jennings Nelson hasn't seen her grandson, Amir, since late November, but that doesn't mean she's giving up hope.

She believes the little boy is still alive despite the fact he hasn't been seen in months. On Thursday evening, she had plenty of support by her side as friends, family and perfect strangers crowded Columbia's Francis Burns United Methodist Church hoping the power of prayer will bring the little boy home safely.

"I believe in my heart that he is alive and that he is receiving the things that he needs," said Nelson. "This is the only vehicle that will free me of my hopelessness and my desperation."

Before a crowded prayer vigil, the Columbia grandmother spoke publicly about the case for the first time since early January.

Nelson addressed some lingering questions about her grandon's disappearance, explaining she does not know why her daughter Zinah will not tell police where her son is. Police say Zinah is not cooperating with them and has lied about the child's whereabouts. Amir Jennings was 18-months-old when he vanished.

Court documents released last month indicate the boy's mother is mentally ill and is being treated for symptoms of schizophrenia. She is charged with unlawful conduct towards a child in the case and is being held on $150,000 bond.

Nelson described her daughter as a "doting and loving" mother, but says she and her family ask themselves every day about what went wrong. On Thursday, she said they question whether Amir's mother sold him, simply gave him away, or if she was threatened by someone who now has the boy.

"I don't know what happened in my daughter's life that broke her spirit, that broke her down, that brought her to this very dark place," said Nelson.

At least for a few hours on Thursday night, the family's supporters lifted their voices as one in prayer and song hoping to lift some of the darkness the family has been living in, to show them hope is not lost.

"I can't tell you how much we miss him. His smell, his laughter, his dance," said Nelson.

Police are asking anyone with information about the Amir Jennings case to call Crimestopper at 1-888-CRIME-SC. All calls remain anonymous and there is a possible $10,000 reward for information in the case.