The desperate search for missing Georgia toddler Quinton Simon has all but come to an end as police said they believe he is “likely dead”.
The Chatham County Police Department announced on 12 October that they believed Quinton is no longer alive.
In the same update, police said Quinton’s 22-year-old mother, Leilani Simon, is considered the “prime suspect” in the case. No arrests have been made nor charges filed as of Monday (17 October).
During a 13 October press conference, officials said they could not publicise much information on the investigation yet because they only have “one shot” to arrest and charge Ms Simon.
Here is everything we know about the case so far:
When did Quinton go missing?
The toddler went missing on 5 October from his home in Savannah, a coastal city on the border between Georgia and South Carolina, in Chatham County.
Quinton was last seen at about 6am that day at an address in the 500 block of Buckhalter Road, and was reported missing at approximately 9.40am by his mother, Leilani Simon.
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.
A dispatch call by emergency service, which has been obtained by local media, suggested the front door to the family home was found open and that Ms Simon told 911 she “Thinks someone came in and took him.”
Quinton’s babyitter, Diana McCarta, said she was messaged at 9am asking if she knew where he was, and “immediately” went to the family’s home to help search for Quinton before his mother eventually phoned police at about 9.40am, she said in an interview with WSAV.
Ms MsCarta said that the family “didn’t want that (her help)” and she had been due to look after both Quinon and his three-year-old brother that day but was told not to come at 5.30am, about half an hour before he was last seen.
He was wearing a light blue Sesame Street shirt and black pants.
What has his family said?
Speaking to reporters days after his disappearance, Quinton’s grandparents said the boy’s mother “hasn’t always done the right thing,” and expressed concern for the 20-month-old.
“Sometimes she does really great, sometimes she doesn’t,” Billie Jo Howell told ABC30. “I don’t know what to think right now...I don’t know if I can trust her or I don’t. I just know I’m hurting and I want this baby home. He’s my baby.”
Ms Howell reportedly lived at the same address as Quinton and Ms Simon along with her husband Thomas Howell, and her daughter’s boyfriend, WJCL reported.
The news outlet obtained court documents alleging an eviction despite, with Ms Howell seeking to remove her daughter and her boyfriend from the property over alleged “damage” and a lack of “peace”. This remains unconfirmed however.
The same documents also stated that Quinton’s grandparents have custody of the child, according to WJCL.
Quinton’s mother has not spoken to reporters.
Ms McCarta, who told WSAV she babysits the two children, said in an interview on 11 October that she had previously reported the family to Georgia’s department of families and children services (DFCS) with concerns, but this was unconfirmed.
The department told the The Independent: “DHS/DFCS is bound by both state and federal law to protect the privacy of the people we serve. As such, we are unable to comment on the specifics of any reported abuse or neglect cases nor confirm or deny the existence of any abuse or neglect records.”
It continued: “We take seriously every report that might be made to the Department and work with law enforcement when appropriate to ensure the safety of Georgia’s children.”
At least one Facebook post from Ms Howell, which was seen by Fox News last week, meanwhile referred to the coming “calm” after a “storm”, local reports said. It remains unclear what the message behind the reshared post was, in light of an expected update from police on the evidence found.
Is there a motive?
Early into the search for Quinton, Chatham County police said they did not believe foul play was involved in his disappearance and that they hoped to find him alive, WJCL reported.
Despite that, police said they were “saddened” to report on 12 October that they believed the 20-month-old was dead and that his family had been informed.
In a statement that was shared to Facebook, police said. “The CCPD and the FBI have notified Quinton Simon’s family that we believe he is deceased”.
His mother, Ms Simon, has been named a prime suspect.
Officials held the first press conference on the case on 13 October, where they reiterated the belief that Quinton is deceased.
“To the Chatham County community, our heart breaks along with yours trying to comprehend what we believe happened here. The FBI along with our law enforcement agencies have followed every lead, every tip and every piece of evidence to get to this point and we will continue to do so,” FBI Supervisor Senior Resident Agent Will Clarke said.
Officials did not disclose the nature of evidence suggesting Quinton is dead, or why Ms Simon is the main suspect.
What agencies are involved in the search?
The FBI is supporting the Chatham County Police Department in the investigation, with law enforcement spending 18 to 20 hours a day looking for the 20-month-old child, CNN reported.
Chatham County police said in an earlier statement that it had executed search warrants and continued to interview “those who might have information that could be helpful in the investigation” with the help of the FBI.
Where have investigators searched?
In the days after Quinton was reported missing, search warrants were carried out on a nearby pond, a backyard swimming pool and the house itself in the 500 block of Buckhalter Road in Savannah, police said.
Those areas were re-canvassed on 10 October when the pool in the backyard of the home was was drained.
While it was unclear if any evidence was found or removed from it, police announced on 11 October the discovery of evidence “that we believe will help move this case forward”. That evidence went under analysis, police said.