Quinton Simon’s mother and grandmother were seen drinking in a town near where the toddler went missing two weeks ago.
As the FBI continues searching for Quinton’s body in a landfill in Savannah, Georgia, local news station WSAV first reported that Leilani Simon, now the prime suspect in the investigation, and her mother Billie Jo Howell were seen drinking at Sting Ray’s, a bar in the neighbouring Tybee Island.
When contacted by The Independent, a staff member said: “They were here, they drank, they left.”
During a press conference on Tuesday, Chatam County Sheriff Jeff Prentice said that Ms Simon was believed to be in Chatham County and that she was not a flight risk. He added that authorities wouldn’t be releasing more information about the evidence they had encountered, noting they had “one shot” at arresting Ms Simon.
A server also told the New York Post that Ms Simon and Ms Howell “downed tequila shots” and stayed at the bar for hours on Tuesday, despite other customers’ voicing that they were upset the pair were drinking in public in the middle of an investigation into Quinton’s likely death.
“They were having a great time, like they didn’t have a care in the world,” a server told the Post. “They were drinking Patron shots in the deck area, being loud and laughing. It’s almost like they were trying to draw attention to themselves.”
A picture posted by a WSAV reporter shows a woman believed to be Ms Simon wearing black clothes at the bar. The outlet also reported that the mother and daughter were “flirtatious” with staff.
Authorities have not made any arrests and said on Tuesday that they’re not releasing the nature of the evidence that led to the grim conclusions.
A legal expert interviewed by WJCL said that law enforcement is likely trying to build a rock-solid case before moving on with arrest warrants in order to protect the criminal investigation, but that the evidence found must have been strong.
“They need to find the remains if they can, because even though it is not required to prosecute a murder under Georgia law, it is always better to identify a cause and manner of death,” legal analyst Philip Holloway told the news station.
“If they make mistakes now, it could actually jeopardize the long-term success of the prosecution [that they] would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Photos released by the FBI on Tuesday show more than 20 crew members dressed in white forensic suits, heavy-duty boots and neon vests as they rake through the garbage.
It is unclear how many investigators are actively conducting the search, but authorities warned that it could take days and that potential results were “uncertain.”
Quinton went missing two weeks ago from his home in Savannah, a coastal city on the border between Georgia and South Carolina, in Chatham County. He was last seen at about 6am that day at an address in the 500 block of Buckhalter Road, and was reported missing by Ms Simon around 9.40am.
She told police her son was playing in a playpen when he was last seen, although earlier reports suggested Quinton had wandered off, CNN reported.
Last week, police revealed they had found evidence that suggested Quinton was dead and Ms Simon was the prime suspect.
On Tuesday, they said he was believed to be disposed of in a dumpster and then taken to a landfill.