Judge won't lower bond for mom of missing SC boy

January 31, 2012 - 4:35 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The mother of a South Carolina boy missing since Thanksgiving will stay behind bars after a judge on Tuesday denied a request to lower her bond, despite pleas by her attorney that the pregnant woman needs prenatal care outside the jail.

Circuit Judge Casey Manning did not explain his reasons for keeping Zinah Jennings' bond at $150,000, only noting that prosecutors had argued that the 22-year-old pregnant mother "was a flight risk and danger to the community, herself, and her unborn child."

Manning ruled a day after hearing arguments about Jennings' pregnancy. Defense attorney Hemphill Pride II also said that his client has been receiving psychiatric care and is on medication for it.

Jennings has been in jail since late December. She is charged with cruelty to children because authorities say she is lying about the whereabouts of her son, Amir. The boy was 18 months old when his grandmother reported him missing at Thanksgiving.

Police say she has repeatedly fabricated stories about her son. Last week, hundreds of officers used cadaver dogs to search a sprawling rural area but found no sign of the boy.

State police are analyzing stains on blankets and clothes removed from Jennings' car after a Christmas Eve wreck to see if they are blood.

Pride said he was shocked at the judge's decision.

"I realize that the child is important, and it appears to me that the child's whereabouts have certainly clouded the issue of whether or not the mother is entitled to a bond," Pride said. "It appears also that law enforcement wants to hold her until they are able to find the child."

In court Monday, law enforcement officials including Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott asked Manning not to lower Jennings' bond because they felt she was a flight risk. Jennings is pregnant, and Scott and prosecutors also argued that she might be a danger to her unborn child if she were released from jail.

On Nov. 9, after spending three weeks with a half-sister in the Atlanta area, Jennings was arrested on prostitution and drug charges, accused of offering sex to an undercover officer. That day, the half-sister — who had also reported Jennings missing — told police that Jennings suffered from "schizophrenic tendencies" that had not been diagnosed.

Jennings spent more than a week at a mental hospital undergoing a psychiatric evaluation before being returned to jail. Pride says she has been prescribed Risperdal, which is used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia. Jocelyn Jennings Nelson has also said her headstrong daughter had been depressed since the birth of her son.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP