Georgia police believe missing 20-month-old is dead; mother named as primary suspect

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SAVANNAH, Ga. – Police in Georgia announced Thursday a mother is the primary suspect in the disappearance of her 20-month-old son, Quinton Simon.

Chatham County police Chief Jeff Hadley added that Leilani Simon has not been arrested and no charges have been filed.

“Sadly, we still have not found Quinton,” said Hadley. “But our search and our investigation will continue, and it will continue with every available resource we have in order to get Quinton’s family closure and see that justice is served in this case.”

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When asked why the Chatham County police department and the FBI named Simon as the primary suspect without pressing charges against her, Hadley declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. Hadley said he wasn’t sure where Simon was at the time of the press conference, but they don’t believe she is a flight risk.

“What I can say is that the evidence so far, based on multiple interviews and search warrants has led us to the conclusion that Quinton is deceased,” said Hadley. “The investigation doesn’t end right there.”

Savannah FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Will Clarke also spoke at the press conference, saying “to the Chatham County community, our heart breaks along with yours, trying to comprehend what we believe happened here.”

Earlier this month, Clarke said the FBI deployed their child abduction rapid deployment team. Moving forward, the FBI “stands ready to deploy additional resources.”

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Before the disappearance of her youngest son, Simon, 22, had been the subject of multiple police investigations in recent years.

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On Sept. 7, a Chatham County police officer responded to a call for a domestic dispute. Simon told the police officer that she and her mother had a fight over clothes in the washing machine. Simon said it started when she removed her clothes so her mom, Billie Jo Howell, could use the washer. That led to a larger argument between the two.

Her mom, Simon said, got into her face and shoved her. Simon fell into a wall, injuring and bruising her elbow. Both her older child and Quinton witnessed the fight. She said that she called the police because she “did not want her kids around that.” Another reason Simon called, she told the police officer, was because she was on probation.

Howell, however, told the police officer a slightly different story, saying Simon instigated the fight. While the fight did start with the use of the washing machine, Howell claimed she was having other issues with her daughter. She admitted to shoving Simon, but only after Simon “screamed at the top of her lungs in her face.”

Howell filed a dispossessory notice with the Chatham County Magistrate Court to evict Simon and her boyfriend, Daniel Youngkin, from the home.

On Oct. 5 at 9:42 a.m., Simon made the 911 call for the missing child. In the police report, she is listed as the “complainant” and the “victim.” Eight days later, though, CCPD and the FBI named her the prime suspect in Quinton’s disappearance and what they believe to be his likely death.