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A woman identified as a suspect in her toddler’s disappearance says she hopes the boy will be found alive amid authorities' ongoing search of a landfill in the case.
Police in Chatham County, Georgia, have stated 22-year-old Leilani Simon is the “prime suspect” in her son’s Oct. 5 disappearance. Officials say they believe 20-month-old boy Quinton Simon is dead and had been placed in a “specific dumpster” that found its way to a landfill outside Savannah.
Despite wide-scale searches conducted by local authorities and the FBI, the toddler’s body has not been found.
FBI agent Will Clarke previously said focus on the landfill was not random and that they had “specific evidence that leads us to this large property.”
Simon, who has not been charged in connection with her son’s disappearance, addressed reporters for the first time on Monday about the fact that attention surrounding the case had led to demonstrators gathering outside the home where she and her parents live. Four people were arrested over the weekend for blocking the house's driveway or for banging on the home's windows, according to the New York Post.
“It makes it hard to even process what’s going around us,” Simon told CBS Savannah affiliate WTOC-TV. “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’m here. I’ve been here every day since this. I’m not running, and I’m not hiding,” she continued. “And if something does come up that I am at fault, I will take myself to that police station.”
Quinton Simon was reported missing from the family’s Buckhalter Road residence on Oct. 5 after Leilani Simon could not find him. Simon's boyfriend, who lives with her, reportedly last saw the boy at around 6:00 a.m., though Quinton was gone by the time Simon said she woke up shortly after 9:40 a.m.
Leilani told authorities her son wasn’t big enough to open a door on his own, leading her to believe he was abducted.
“We want something great to come out of this, but mostly, we want him not to be found in the landfill,” Simon's mother, Billie Jo Howell told WTOC-TV. “We want him to be found.”
“We want him back in our arms, holding us. That’s what we want,” Simon added. “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 home at this point.”
Leilani Simon’s parents had custody of Quinton and his 3-year-old brother and allegedly tried having Leilani and her boyfriend evicted from the home in the weeks preceding Quinton’s disappearance, according to WTOC-TV. One week before he vanished, Leilani was ordered to pay her mother child support, the station reported, citing court records.
Earlier this week, WSAV-TV reported Leilani Simon was on probation in North Carolina and has faced several legal battles in recent years. In 2021, she was charged in Harnett County, North Carolina, for allegedly stealing cigarettes and food from a Love’s Truck Stop where she was employed. She pleaded guilty and was ordered to serve 48 hours of community service and one year on probation.
She was on probation when police responded to the Simons’ Savannah home on September 7 after Billie Jo Howell allegedly pushed her daughter into a wall.
As suspicions surround Quinton’s disappearance and presumed death, investigators continue to utilize all their resources to find the missing boy.
“We have worked every day since we got the call that little Quinton was missing,” said the Chatham County Police Department on Friday. “We want you to know how much we appreciate the hundreds of messages of support and our department has received since this case began and how much it means to everyone working tirelessly on this case.”
Searches at the Savannah-area landfill are expected to continue throughout the week.
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