Family friend details hours before Leilani Simon was arrested

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 3:07 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2022 at 2:10 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Leilani Simon will spend her second night in jail Tuesday, after being arrested and charged with the murder of her 20-month-old son, Quinton Simon.

She reported Quinton missing on Oct. 5.

The Chatham County Police Department arrested Leilani after they found what they believe are Quinton’s remains in a landfill. Investigators said DNA tests are being done to confirm it is Quinton.

WTOC called Leilani’s mother, Billie Howell, on Tuesday to talk about everything that has happened in the case since we last spoke. She was distraught on the phone- she was crying and had clearly been crying for a while before being called.

She said that she wasn’t able to go into detail, but she did hand the phone off to a family friend, that Billie says has been by her side since the day Quinton was reported missing.

The family friend said that a few weeks ago, Leilani had actually checked herself into a treatment center and had been there ever since. The friend also said that Billie had been in communication with the FBI on a daily basis since Quinton was reported missing - and that Leilani had been as well.

However, she says Billie caught wind that Leilani was going to check herself out of the treatment center and had to make a decision.

“Her mother had to make one of the hardest decisions of her life, and call the FBI agents and let them know that she was signing herself out, and that she could not come back here, and that she was going to be a flight risk, because she could not come back here because she was going to be back on the streets doing God knows what with God knows who,” the family friend said.

Billie’s friend says that at the request of the FBI, Billie picked Leilani up from the treatment center and spent the last few free hours Leilani had with her.

“They asked her to buy some time. So, she went and picked up Leilani’s belongings from another center, and then she took Leilani to have her last free meal,” the family friend said.

She then took Leilani to the Savannah FBI office, where just a few hours later she was arrested and charged with Quinton’s murder. This matches what WTOC was told by a law enforcement source familiar with the matter.

Previously, the Chatham County Police Department had said they did not think Leilani was a flight risk. Chief Jeff Hadley was asked Monday if that changed leading up to her arrest, and he simply responded, “no.”

There’s been a strong reaction to the arrest, including from Diana McCarta, who says she babysat Quinton for 10 months before he went missing. She says she keeps thinking back to that morning, when she received a text that she wouldn’t need to babysit that day.

“You wonder what he had to endure from the time that he left my house, to the morning when I got the text. I can’t even imagine and I don’t want to think about it because it drives me crazy,” McCarta said.

Folks from everywhere, all across the country, have been calling for justice for Quinton and feel, that maybe, we’re one step closer to that.

“I just don’t know how any mother could hurt their child. I don’t know what could be going through their head for them to hurt their child. I am happy that justice is going to be served, because Quinton needs that,” McCarta said.

“We want justice served for this precious baby, no matter what it is, no matter who it is. At the end of the day, all the protestors and the family all wanted the same thing. We wanted justice for this precious baby,” the family friend said.