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The bones found in a Georgia landfill earlier this month belonged to missing toddler Quinton Simon, the FBI has confirmed.
The 20-month-old boy was reported missing by his mother, Leilani Simon, on 5 October and she has since been arrested and charged with malice murder, concealing the death of another person, and other charges.
The youngster’s remains were found on 18 November after authorities conducted a 30-day search during which investigators picked through 1.2m pounds of trash at Savannah’s Superior landfill.
He was last seen alive in the early hours of 5 October at a home in Savannah, where he lived with his mother, her boyfriend, his grandparents and siblings.
Ms Simon told police that she woke up later that day to find her son gone and that she believed someone had entered his room and taken him.
FBI officials in Atlanta confirmed the identification of the remains on Monday following DNA analysis.
After the FBI wrapped up the first day of searching the landfill, Ms Simon was seen drinking tequila at a bar in the neighbouring Tybee Island with his mother.
And on 24 October, Ms Simon made her first media appearance, saying she’s “not hiding” and hoped her son was found “happy and alive”.
A preliminary hearing for 22-year-old Leilani Simon has been scheduled for 11 January 2023.
Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley said following her arrest that he did not anticipate any other arrests in the case. “She has been the sole suspect since the beginning,” Chief Hadley said.
According to police, Ms Simon’s boyfriend, Danny Youngkin, was the last one to see him, at around 6am on the day he vanished. It was not until after 9am that his mother reported him missing.
“She doesn’t deserve a Thanksgiving, quite frankly if I can go off script a little bit,” said Mr Hadley.
FBI special agent Will Clark told the press conference: “One month ago we began this landfill search alongside Chatham County Police Department with one purpose in mind and that was to find Quinton and to bring it in the home.
“On Friday, search crews from the FBI and Chatham County found what we preliminarily believe are partial remains from a human child. Those bones were immediately sent to our lab in Quantico, Virginia. Additional testing for potential confirmation is now underway. It could be days before we have final results.”
He added: “What happened to this 20-month old child is unthinkable. No child should be harmed by anyone, let alone the person in their lives that should be their protector.”