The mother of Quinton Simon, the Georgia toddler whose disappearance last month scandalized a community and sparked a search in a landfill, has been charged with his murder, police said on Monday.
Leilani Simon, 22, was arrested and charged with several crimes—including malice murder, false report of a crime, and concealing a death of another—in connection with the disappearance and death of the 20-month-old. The arrest comes more than a month after Simon reported her son missing on Oct. 5—spurring a sprawling investigation that drew national headlines.
During a Monday, press conference, Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley confirmed that on Friday, human remains were found in a landfill they have been searching for weeks. While the remains were sent to the FBI for DNA testing, police believe the remains belong to Quinton.
“We feel that we have a very strong case,” Hadley said. “She doesn’t deserve a Thanksgiving, frankly. Quinton deserves that.”
In a statement, local police indicated that Simon was being held at Chatham County Detention Center ahead of a bond hearing. Hadley added on Monday that police do not anticipate any other arrests in connection the case.
The arrest is not completely surprising, as police identified the mother as a prime suspect in the case last month.
Around the time of the child’s disappearance, police say, Simon texted a babysitter at around 6 a.m. to inform her that he would not be coming in that day—before calling authorities about three hours later to say that the 20-month-old was missing and that his biological father had taken him.
Police quickly dismissed that kidnapping allegation and began a massive investigation that included searching a landfill. Video later emerged of Quinton’s grandmother, Billie Jo Howell, barging into the home of his babysitter, Diana McCarta, and demanding answers about the toddler’s disappearance.
“My baby’s not dead,” Howell yelled in the video obtained by WSAV. (At the time, the grandmother had custody of the Quinton and his two siblings.) “You got Quinton? Do you have Quinton?” she asked.
Howell seemed distraught in the video, but she and Simon were reportedly seen drinking at a local bar a few weeks ago as investigators looked for Quinton.
“They were here, they drank, they left,” a Sting Ray’s staff member on Tybee Island, Georgia, told The Independent. In an interview with the New York Post, the server added that the two were “a great time, like they didn’t have a care in the world.”
“They were drinking Patron shots in the deck area, being loud and laughing. It’s almost like they were trying to draw attention to themselves.”