COLUMBIA (WACH, AP)-- The South Carolina mother of a toddler missing since Thanksgiving has retained a notable Columbia criminal defense attorney.
Hemphill Pride II told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he now represents Zinah Jennings and has visited her at a psychiatric hospital where she is being evaluated.
Pride represented former South Carolina standout Moe Thompson, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to attempted first-degree burglary and petit larceny on allegations he and a teammate took TVs and a DVD player they thought belonged to other football players. Thompson was sentenced to 20 years, suspended to five years probation.
Pride was also an initial attorney for the "3 Hebrew Boys," a trio of men charged with dozens of federal fraud counts and subsequently ordered to repay $82 million in restitution to thousands of investors.Related Stories Columbia Police need help in search for missing toddler Family pleads for safe return of missing toddler Police used cadaver dogs in search for missing boy Missing toddler's mother arrested for prostitution in November
Amir Jennings was 18 months old when his grandmother said she last saw him over Thanksgiving. The boy's 22-year-old mother is charged with lying to police about where her son is.
Authorities say Zinah Jennings first told them in late December that she didn't have a son before saying he was with friends in the Carolinas and Georgia.
Jennings had also been arrested on prostitution and drug charges in Georgia shortly before her sons disappearance.
The grandmother of a South Carolina toddler missing for more than a month says she's holding out hope the boy will be found alive.
Jocelyn Jennings Nelson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she is sure her daughter did nothing to harm the boy.
As the search continues for 18-month-old Amir Jennings, Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott announced that a $10,000 reward is being offered for information that brings the child home.
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.
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.
Investigators say a search of the boyâ??s motherâ??s home turned up a shovel and what appeared to be bloody clothes and blankets. They add they also found what appeared to be blood stains on blankets and clothes in the back of Zinah Jenningsâ?? car.
Search warrants show investigators searched Jenningsâ?? home earlier this month after her stepfather told police he saw her in the backyard with a shovel about the time Amir disappeared.
Authorities are testing the items found for DNA.
Residents who live in and around the neighborhood are worried about the boy and his mother.
"Something has got to be wrong, either she has mental problems or needs psychological help," said Darrell Brown, referring to Zinah Jennings.
Authorities arrested Jennings after she was involved in a car accident in late December. Investigators say she originally told them she didnâ??t have a son, and then said he was in Atlanta.
Amir was last seen around Thanksgiving.
"We're talking about a mother who is intentionally leading investigators in the wrong direction," said Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott.
Nelson says her daughter doesn't trust police and may not fully understand the seriousness of the search for her son.
Jennings remains in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. Sheâ??s charged with unlawful conduct towards a child.
Amir Jenningsâ?? relatives are pleading for the safe return of the boy. If you have any information on this case, youâ??re asked to CRIMESTOPPERS at 1-888-CRIME-SC. All calls remain anonymous.
Where is Amir Jennings?
The map below shows locations linked to the Amir Jennings case.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)