Savannah, GA – Investigators have confirmed that the bones recovered from the Superior Landfill earlier this month are those of missing 20-month-old Quinton Simon.
The toddler’s mother, 22-year-old Leilani Simon, has been arrested on charges of malice murder, false reporting, concealing the death of another person, and making false statements in connection with her son’s disappearance and death, the Chatham County Police Department (CCPD) said in a press release.
Investigators located human remains at the Superior Landfill on Nov. 18 after a search police described as “more grueling than anyone could have imagined,” FOX News reported.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Atlanta office announced in a press release on Monday that DNA analysis confirmed the bones belonged to Quinton.
Investigators sifted through more than 1.2 million pounds of trash and hazardous material during the five-week search for the missing toddler, FOX News reported.
“The working conditions were grueling and hazardous, and searchers knew that the chances of finding Quinton were low,” the CCPD said in a press release on the day of Simon’s arrest. “Historically, the FBI says landfill searches are only successful 5 percent of the time.”
Simon claimed her son mysteriously disappeared from her home on Buckhalter Road sometime after 6 a.m. on Oct. 5, FOX News reported.
“Complainant advised her 1-year-old son is missing,” a 911 dispatcher relayed to officers, according to court documents. “She woke up, her door was open. Advised he’s unable to open a door. Thinks someone came in and took him.”
The CCPD and the FBI revealed on Oct. 12 that they did not believe the boy was still alive.
“We are saddened to report that CCPD and the FBI have notified Quinton Simon’s family that we believe he is deceased,” the CCPD said in a tweet that night. “We have named his mother, Leilani Simon, as the prime suspect in his disappearance and death. But no arrests have been made and no charges have been filed.”
Investigators said during a subsequent press conference that they believe Quinton’s body was discarded in a “specific dumpster” that was ultimately taken to the landfill, FOX News reported.
“We did not want to end up at this point, but the evidence has taken us here,” FBI Special Agent Will Clark said on Oct. 18. “We have evidence, specific evidence, that leads us to this large property.”
The CCPD also revealed that investigators had no reason to believe the toddler was kidnapped or abducted, WTOC reported.
As investigators continued the “grueling and hazardous” task of sifting through the landfill for her child’s remains, Simon and her mother, Billie Joe Howell, headed over to Sting Ray’s bar on Tybee Island on Oct. 18 and began downing pricey shots and flirting with bar staff, FOX News reported.
“They were having a great time, like they didn’t have a care in the world,” one server told the New York Post. “They were drinking Patrón shots in the deck area, being loud and laughing. It’s almost like they were trying to draw attention to themselves.”
A member of the wait staff said the duo met up with friends and racked up a tab of more than $300 during their rowdy outing, WSAV reported.
“They had shots, [were] flirty and demanded a waiter’s number,” one staffer alleged. “People were getting upset. They just wanted them out of here. It was really strange.”
Days later, Simon complained to WTOC that protesters had been rallying outside her home and leaving signs on a memorial for her son calling her a “Baby Killer.”
“It makes it hard to even process what’s going around us,” she told the news outlet. “We get to the point where we have to barricade our own home in order to even feel safe in our backyard because we can’t even process what is happening everywhere else, or even have the time to do so.”
“I can’t even walk out and appreciate my own son’s memorial or put down gifts that I got for him. I can’t even go out there and do that without harassment and negligence and everything,” she added. “It’s just devastating to see that this is how the outside world reacts.”
Simon declared at the time that she wasn’t going anywhere, despite being named as the prime – and only – suspect in her son’s death.
“I’m here. I’ve been here every day since this,” she told WTOC. “I’m not running and I’m not hiding.”
“And if something does come up that I am at fault,” she added, “I will take myself to that police station.”
“And I will walk with her,” Howell chimed in.
Simon said at the time that she was becoming more and more angry each day police failed to find her son.
“Happy and alive. We want him back in our arms, holding us. That’s what we want,” she told WTOC. “We’re just hoping that he’s in somebody’s house and they’re feeding him and maybe they wanted a baby or couldn’t have a baby. Maybe they thought they were his savior. That’s our best hope at this point.”
Simon further said she wanted “justice” for her son.
“All we want is justice for Quinton Simon,” she told WTOC. “We want justice for Quinton… We want answers, just like everybody else does.”
Howell, who has a lengthy arrest history, has described her family as “dysfunctional” in the past, and compared them to the Showtime drama series, “Shameless,” the New York Post reported.
Howell’s son – Quinton’s uncle – is currently behind bars for manslaughter and robbery charges.
Another of his uncles is serving a 45-year sentence in connection with a man’s death, according to the New York Post.
According to court documents filed by Child Protective Services (CPS) in Chatham County, Simon “is a chronic, unrehabilitated substance abuser of cocaine and cannabis,” The Sun reported.
She also allegedly admitted to using cocaine during pregnancy, and tested positive for the drug when she gave birth to one of her children, according to CPS.
Simon’s other two children – a six-month-old and a three-year-old – were placed into foster care after she was named as the prime suspect in Quinton’s death, The Sun reported.
All three of the children have different fathers, according to the news outlet.
Quinton’s biological father, 24-year-old Henry “Bubba” Moss said Simon initially told police that he had kidnapped their son from her home during the night, even though he hadn’t seen the little boy in months, the Daily Mail reported.
“Leilani’s tried to blame it on me,” Moss told the news outlet.
He said police had not yet announced that they believed Quinton was dead when they showed up to question him at his boss’s home, 85 miles away from Savannah, the Daily Mail reported.
Moss said he assured them that he didn’t leave his house the night before his son’s disappearance and told them he headed to work at 7:40 a.m. that day.
“’I told police – she’s gonna hurt that baby,” he told the Daily Mail. “I said I didn’t know what was going on. Hell, I haven’t heard from her in six to seven months.”
Moss said the couple broke up shortly after Simon allegedly tried to frame him up for a home burglary she had already been arrested for.
Simon ended up pleading guilty to a lesser charge of criminal trespass and was sentenced to 12 months of probation, the Daily Mail reported.
She was still on probation for that offense and for another theft out of North Carolina at the time of Quinton’s disappearance.
“She did cocaine every day, all day, as much as she could,” Moss told the Daily Mail. “When she didn’t get no money from me to get f—king drugs, she’d go crazy. She hit me a few times in the face.”
“The only reason I’m not in Quinton’s life is because she left,” he added. “She was not welcome here anymore with all her lying and stealing.”
Moss said he went to Simon’s family’s home the day after his son’s disappearance to speak with her and Howell about the missing little boy, the Daily Mail reported.
“Every one of them was high as a kite and drunk as hell,” he said. “Leilani was on something. She wasn’t crying when I walked up. She was laughing and having a good time with everybody. It looked like a party.”
The CCPD arrested Simon on Nov. 21 after testing at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, preliminarily confirmed that the bones investigators located at the landfill on Nov. 18 were human, the police department said in a press release.
Additional testing and DNA analysis were then performed to confirm the remains belonged to Quinton.
“The FBI’s expertise was instrumental in solving this case and locating Quinton,” Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley said in the press release. “They are the undisputed experts in missing child cases, and they were with us at every turn in our investigation. Their expertise, manpower, and resources are unmatched and we are tremendously grateful for the FBI’s assistance.”
Chief Hadley described the landfill search as a “massive operation” that would not have been possible without the assistance of numerous other law enforcement and emergency services agencies.
“We are indebted to the many law enforcement and public service agencies who assisted with this search, which was a crucial part of our investigation,” the chief said.
“Every member of the Chatham County Police Department has been impacted by Quinton’s case,” he continued. “I’m proud of how our department performed under the tremendous strain that comes any time a child is missing. Our Criminal Investigations Division deserves special recognition. Their devotion to Quinton and to making sure this crime did not go unsolved is an example of police work at its finest. Our detectives worked tirelessly, and were determined to follow every lead and uncover every piece of evidence in this case.”