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The painstaking search for a missing 20-month-old boy has come to a tragic end.
As feared, human remains discovered at a Chatham County, Georgia landfill on Nov. 18 belong to missing toddler Quinton Simon, the FBI - Atlanta division announced on Monday afternoon. The FBI’s Laboratory Division used DNA to confirm the bones belonged to Quinton, who was reported missing from his Buckhalter Road residence on Oct. 5.
On Nov. 18 — the same day investigators found the remains at the Savannah-area landfill — Quinton’s mother, Leilani Simon, 22, was charged with malice murder, concealing the death of another person and making false statements in connection with her son’s disappearance.
Chatham County officials previously announced their belief that the child was “placed in a specific dumpster,” leading to a five-week search of the landfill that investigators referred to as “grueling and hazardous."
The search — which consisted of law enforcement officers meticulously sifting through 1.2 million pounds of trash — at the Superior Landfill has now officially ended, according to the FBI.
“On Monday, Nov. 28, authorities officially ceased operations at the landfill and began removing Command Post facilities from L. Scott Stell Park,” Feds announced. “The FBI is thankful for the partnership with Chief Jeff Hadley and the entire Chatham County Police Department. A monumental team effort was put forth by everyone involved in bringing closure to this horrific situation.”
Authorities have yet to determine a cause of death.
The FBI referred all inquiries to the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office.
Leilani Simon was named a prime suspect in her son’s death shortly after his disappearance, which she reported to police. She claimed that she woke up on Oct. 5 at around 9:40 a.m. and could not find the child. Leilani’s live-in boyfriend — who has not been charged in connection with Quinton’s disappearance — told authorities he last saw the child at the home at around 6:00 that morning.
Leilani, the boyfriend, Quinton and Leilani’s 3-year-old son reportedly lived with Leilani’s parents, who were Quinton's custodial guardians. In the weeks preceding Quinton’s disappearance, his grandparents allegedly tried to have Leilani and her boyfriend evicted from the home.
Leilani, who claimed her son wasn’t tall enough to open a door on his own, reportedly told police that she believed someone abducted Quinton.
It remains unclear what led authorities to act under the belief that Quinton was placed in a dumpster, but investigators believed that finding the child’s remains in the landfill was slim, according to the Chatham County Police Department.
“Historically, the FBI says landfill searches are only successful five percent of the time,” said police.
On Wednesday, Leilani Simon waived her right to appear in a Chatham County courtroom but, through a temporary public defender, pleaded not guilty to all charges, according to CBS Savannah affiliate WTOC-TV. Judge Joe Huffman denied bond.
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