The mother of Quinton Simon, the 20-month-old Georgia toddler whose remains were found in a Savannah landfill last month, was indicted on murder charges on Wednesday, weeks after being arrested and charged in connection with his death.
A grand jury indicted Leilani Simon, 23, on charges of malice murder and felony murder in concealing the death of her son, Quinton, according to the 19-count indictment filed in Chatham County Superior Court, which sheds new light on what allegedly occurred around the time of the boy’s death.
The indictment alleges that Quinton was already dead by the time that Simon reported him missing on Oct. 5 from his home in an unincorporated part of Chatham County near Savannah. It alleges that Simon caused Quinton’s death with an unknown object that caused “serious bodily injury” and “cruel and excessive physical pain,” and that she then hid his body “by discarding him in a dumpster at Azalea Mobile Home Plaza.”
The mobile home park is about three miles from Simon’s address, where she lived with her mother Billie Jo Betterton, 45, who also goes by the last name Howell.
Simon is also charged with making a false report of a crime for allegedly implying her son had been abducted by an intruder, and with 14 counts of making a false statement to police and the FBI, according to the indictment.
The false statements allegedly included repeated claims about what she had been doing during the hours around Quinton’s alleged murder, the indictment states. Simon initially told investigators, for example, that she had left her house late the evening of Oct. 4 to meet her drug dealer to pay a debt, and that she left again early the next morning to meet a friend to obtain a pain reliever.
A few days after making those statements, Simon allegedly conceded that she had gone to the dumpster the morning of Oct. 5, but allegedly said “that all she had discarded was normal household garbage,” the indictment states.
On Oct. 31, Simon then allegedly told investigators that it was her boyfriend who had left the home early that morning rather than her, according to the indictment. And on Nov. 21, she allegedly admitted that she had gone to the mobile home park that morning and had never met her friend there, but allegedly claimed “she did not remember what she had done there.”
But the indictment alleges Simon was using “controlled substances” the evening of Oct. 4, and that she traveled to dispose of her son’s body in the dumpster early the next morning.
At a news conference discussing the indictment, District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones called Quinton’s death “sad and untimely,” and credited investigators for the role they played in the case, which included a 30-day search through 1.2 million pounds of trash, officials previously said.
“Were it not for their tireless efforts, we would not have been able to take the first step on the long road to justice as we have today,” Cook Jones said.
Cook Jones said there is “more evidence that may be revealed during the course of this investigation” but declined to elaborate.
Later at the news conference, she told reporters: “To be honest, I wouldn’t be standing here before you if I wasn’t confident about the evidence that we have.”
Simon’s next hearing is set for Jan. 11, court records show. It was not immediately clear how much prison time she faces for the charges. A spokesperson for the Chatham County District Attorney’s office could not immediately be reached.
The indictment comes days after Betterton, Simon’s mother, was arrested, which NBC affiliate WSAV of Savannah reported was not related to her grandson’s death.
Cook Jones told reporters Wednesday that that arrest is a “separate legal matter under investigation” and declined to elaborate.