Quinton Simon's murder-suspect mother was spotted downing shots of expensive tequila with her mother in tow at a beach bar on Tuesday, while federal agents searched a garbage dump for the remains of the toddler, according to a bar employee. Quinton disappeared on October 5 and police have named his mother Leilani Howell, 22, as the primary suspect.
Police believe that the 20-month-old was murdered and dumped in a landfill and have since been searching for his body. Leilani hasn't yet been arrested but police believe that she killed her. They also haven't revealed how she may have killed Quinton and what could be the motive behind the murder.
Leilani, on the other hand, looked quite unfazed even after being named as the prime suspect in the possible murder of her son. On Tuesday, Leilani was spotted boozing with her mother, Billie Jo Howell, on the deck of Sting Ray's on Tybee Island, just outside Savannah, Georgia. They are reportedly staying at a nearby beachfront hotel, locals and a bar employee said.
Leilani and her mom were reportedly having a great time as they were seen downing shots of tequila. "They were having a great time, like they didn't have a care in the world," a bartender told the New York 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."
The woman employee at the bar said that one of her colleagues eventually recognized Leilani and her mother from the news reports. This made other employees angry with the behavior of the mother and grandmother as they looked completely carefree given the missing 20-month-old, who police believe is dead.
"We have someone who works here following the case and she noticed them. "People were getting upset," the worker said. "They just wanted them out of here. But they stayed for a long time, for hours. It was really strange."
The mother-daughter-duo reportedly spent around three hours at the bar, sitting outside in a large group, downing Patron shots and pestering their server to drink with them. However, no one liked their behavior and everyone wanted them to leave.
"Eventually someone tried to get them to leave, they were really uncomfortable with them being there," the worker at the bar said. "You'd think they would be quiet but they weren't. It was like they wanted attention. There were around six of them in the group.
"They were drinking Patron... a top-shelf tequila. They were here from around 5pm until 8pm," she added.
Others claimed to have spent $300 at the bar and were making out with the employees, according to WSAV.
A YouTube user attempted to confront the mother-daughter duo outside the Sandcastle Inn where they were staying and questioned why they had been drinking rather than looking for Quinton, according to a video that was released online.
Additionally, Tweets included images of Howell leaving the island hotel on a motorcycle on Wednesday.
This came as police began the grim process of searching a landfill near the family's home in Savannah, Georgia, for little Quinton's body.
Georgia police and the FBI believe that Quinton's body may have been dumped in a "specific dumpster at a specified spot" that would have been emptied at the county waste management facility, which they had been hunting for 24 hours a day.
According to authorities, Quinton was last seen on October 5 by his mother's boyfriend. Leilani reported him missing at 9:40 am after she woke up.
During the news briefing on Tuesday, Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley fought back tears as he reiterated that this is a "recovery" effort and that the evidence points to Quinton being dead and buried in the dump.
"This operation will include a team of searchers daily from the Chatham County Police Department and FBI, along with dozens of support personnel," Chatham County Police said in a statement.
"The FBI's Evidence Response Team is leading the landfill search, which will be a precise and extensive recovery mission for Quinton's remains and other potential evidence."
The day Quinton vanished, Leilani, who admitted to using narcotics while pregnant in court this week, texted her babysitter Diana McCarta and asked her not to report to work.
She had been in court for a custody hearing involving her other two small children, who were 6 months and 3 years old and had since been given to foster care.
Quinton and Leilani didn't get along well; Leilani once attempted to evict her daughter from the family home and implied that she doesn't trust Quinton.
Prior to filing charges, authorities had stated that they were seeking additional proof to make sure they had enough to guarantee a conviction.