COLUMBIA — Overwhelmed by parenting, the mother of a missing South Carolina toddler considered giving away or selling her son to alleviate the stress, a high school friend testified Wednesday.
“She actually said, ‘Sometimes, I think about giving him away,’” said Christian Dickerson, who called frequently to check up on her friend, Zinah Jennings. “She told me that she thought about selling him.”
Jennings, 23, had planned her pregnancy, said Dickerson, who added that she saw Jennings abuse the boy when he was about a year old, in September 2011.
“She set him on the floor, and she kicked him and told him to go play,” Dickerson said, adding that she knew her friend was stressed. “She said it's nothing like she expected, that sometimes she thinks about throwing him out of the car on the highway.”
Jennings is on trial on a charge of illegal conduct toward a child. Her son, Amir, was 18 months when he was last seen around Thanksgiving in Columbia. Police say Jennings has told them misleading, false stories about where the boy is.
Prosecutors began portraying Jennings' apparent stress Tuesday, when they played a two-hour interview in which she told police searching for the boy that she needed a break from the child. Jennings said she was stressed from parenting, criticism from her mother and being unemployed and needed some time to herself.
The interview was from a conversation Jennings had with police several days after a Christmas Eve car wreck in downtown Columbia. Jennings initially told police she had no children, then said the boy was with relatives and friends in cities from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C. Investigators chased down Jennings' stories but arrested her after several dead ends.
Prosecutors also played a bank's surveillance video from November 29, 2011 – the last day Amir was reported seen – in which the boy runs around the bank and tries to go through the front doors while his mother talks with a teller.
Jennings' trial is expected to last several weeks, and she faces up to 10 years if convicted.