Authorities searching landfill for Georgia toddler feared dead
CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Police in Chatham County, Georgia said they have focused on a landfill in the search for the remains of a 20-month-old toddler reported missing earlier this month.
Quinton Simon was last seen on Oct. 5 at his Buckhalter Road home in Chatham County, WTOC-TV reported.
“A short time ago, we began what will be an extensive search of the waste management landfill located here in Chatham County,” Police Chief Jeff Hadley said during a Tuesday morning news conference. “We know that this is going to be a physically, mentally and emotionally grueling task for our investigators and team.”
Hadley spoke while standing next to a large photo of the boy he said was placed on the wall of their operations center as a reminder of the focus of the weeks-long search.
“We want justice for Quinton just like everybody else, and we want to find his remains so we can give him a proper resting place,” Hadley said.
But he warned this would not be a quick search.
“This is not going to happen within a day or so,” he said. “We’re here for the long haul until we determine we don’t need to be here anymore.”
Hadley would not provide details but said they believe the boy’s body was placed in a specific dumpster at a specific location that was then brought to the landfill by regular means of disposal.
Last week, authorities said evidence collected led them to believe Simon is dead and that the boy’s mother, Leilani Simon, is considered a suspect, but no one has been charged.
“We’re not ready to charge anyone yet,” he said. “We still have work to do. We still have an investigation to do and we are not going to do anything preemptively that would harm future prosecution.”
The toddler’s mother called 911 on the morning of Oct. 5 to report him missing, saying she had last seen her son inside his playpen. Police and volunteers quickly fanned out across the neighborhood just outside Savannah to look for the child, who was described as last seen wearing a Sesame Street T-shirt and black pants.
In the days that followed, police obtained a warrant to search the child’s home with assistance from FBI agents. They drained a pool in the backyard and used search dogs to comb woods near the house.
Hadley declined to specify what led police to believe the boy is dead.
“What I can say is the evidence we have so far based on multiple search warrants and interviews has led us to the conclusion that Quinton is deceased,” the chief said.
He also wouldn’t say why police suspect the boy’s mother, though he said she is currently the only suspect.
FBI agent Will Clarke, who supervises the bureau’s office in Savannah, said agents were assisting local police in their search for Quinton within a few hours of him being reported missing. Clarke said the FBI sent a team that specializes in child abductions to help.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Copyright 2022 WTOC. The Associated Press contributed to this story. All rights reserved.