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A Georgia mother has been arrested after authorities believe they may have found the remains of her missing toddler in a local landfill.
Chatham County Police announced Monday the arrest of 22-year-old Leilani Simon, who is now facing charges of malice murder, concealing the death of another person, false reporting and making false statements in connection with the disappearance of her young son, 20-month-old Quinton Simon.
Police made the arrest after law enforcement discovered what they believed to be human remains at the Waste Management Landfill site in Chatham County on Friday. Testing is now being done to determine whether the remains belong to Quinton, who was reported missing by his mother on Oct. 5.
“We are deeply saddened by this case, but we are thankful that we are one step closer to justice for little Quinton,” police wrote on Twitter shortly after the arrest.
Leilani reported Quinton missing from his home at around 9 a.m. on Oct. 5, after telling police he had been missing for about three hours, authorities said last month.
A week later, police announced that investigators believed Quinton was dead and named Leilani as the “prime suspect.”
With the help of the FBI, police launched a massive search effort at the Chatham County Waste Management Landfill on Oct. 18 after “evidence led them to believe” that Quinton’s remains could be at the landfill.
“We believe that he was placed in a specific dumpster at a specific location, and it was brought here by regular means of disposal,” Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley told reporters at the time, according to The Associated Press. “I have every belief that we will find his remains here at the landfill.”
For the next month, law enforcement officers “meticulously combed through 1.2 million pounds of trash” as they searched for the remains.
“The working conditions were grueling and hazardous, and searchers knew that the chances of finding Quinton were low,” police said Monday. “Historically, the FBI says landfill searches are only successful 5 percent of the time.”
On Friday, searchers uncovered what they believed to be human remains and an FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia provided preliminary confirmation that the remains were human.
“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,” Hadley said.
Hadley thanked police and law enforcement officers for their “devotion” to the case and the public for their support.
“We appreciate those who kept their faith in the system, who kept their faith in us and our investigative process, and for those who waited patiently for the evidence we needed to make sure Quinton has every opportunity to receive the justice he deserves,” he said.
After being named a prime suspect in the disappearance, Leilani told WTOC last month that the anger directed toward her by the public had been difficult to take.
“It makes it hard to even process what’s going around us. 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,” she said. “I can’t even walk out there and appreciate my own son’s memorial or put down gifts that I got for him.”
She said at the time that she hoped her son would be found “happy and alive.”
“We want him back in our arms, holding us,” she said. “That’s what we want. 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.”
Police announced Monday that Leilani had been taken into custody “a short time ago.” She is currently being held at the Chatham County Detention Center while she awaits a bond hearing.
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