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Police believe man who reported Lonzie Barton missing is lying about child's abduction
Hackney: If there was abduction, Ebron is the suspectBy Tessa Duvall Sat, Jul 25, 2015 @ 10:42 am | updated Tue, Jul 28, 2015 @ 1:20 pm
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072415 -- missing Lonze Barton. -- #AMBERALERT #FINDLONZIE - If you live in the area of 8000 S. Old Kings Rd, check your property in case he wandered. Amber Alert: Toddler apparently abducted during car theft at Ravenwood An Amber Alert has been issued for a 19-month-old Jacksonville boy who police said was apparently taken during a car theft early Friday outside an apartment complex. (JSO handout)
Nearing 48 hours after toddler Lonzie Barton’s disappearance, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office believes the man who initially reported the boy missing is a liar and that he falsified the original abduction story.
While police have not located Lonzie or learned what has happened to the boy, Chief Tom Hackney said the man who reported the boy missing, William Ruben Ebron Jr., 32, is where attention is being focused.
“If there is something to be a suspect of, he’s going to be it,” Hackney said.
Ebron is being held in the Duval County jail on two counts of felony child neglect. He had his first court appearance on Saturday just after 2 p.m. with Judge Ron Higbee.
After nearly half-an-hour, Ebron and his attorney returned. Prosecutor Richard Mantei requested $50,000 bond for each charge, as well as a number of accompanying conditions. Mantei said Ebron was playing “footsie with the facts” and had repeatedly lied to police, hindering the search for Lonzie.
Ebron’s attorney requested $10,000 bond per charge, noting that even if he bonded out, Baker County had revoked his bond on a previous, unrelated drug case and Ebron would remain in custody. One of the conditions of Ebron’s bond in Baker County was that he not contact his girlfriend, Lonzie’s mother Lonna Lauramore, 25, but the two were living together in Jacksonville.
Higbee called the state’s request for bond “more than reasonable” — and even less than he originally intended to grant — when approving the bond. In addition to the $100,000 total bond and no contact with Lonzie’s mother, another woman with a domestic violence injunction against him, the families of the two alleged victims or any children under age 18, Ebron must also wear a GPS device, cannot use drugs or possess guns.
Ebron did not appear to bond out by Saturday evening.
His tentative arraignment is set for Aug. 17.
Police are continuing their search in the Baymeadows area where Lonzie was reported missing early Friday morning. About 40 to 50 detectives are knocking on doors, the dive team is searching nearby bodies of water, the K-9 and cadaver dogs are being used and the air team will assist as necessary, Hackney said.
Hackney told reporters Saturday evening that “a potential piece of evidence” was recovered at Baker Skinner Park at 7641 Powers Ave., about a mile from the apartment complex where Lonzie lived. They also had a tip that led them to the Philips Highway and Interstate 295 area, south of The Avenues.
“We began to search some wooded areas and some bodies of water. There is a mobile home park in that area where we began to search inside the mobile home park and around,” Hackney said. “Our efforts [Sunday] will continue in the south Philips Highway and I-295 area.”
Hackney admitted that he is frustrated.
“I have somebody who knows what happened to Lonzie and the cooperation level hasn’t been enough to have us either recover that child alive or recover that child’s body,” he said outside Wolfson High School, the police search’s command center.
“The victim’s family in this case deserves answers; the community deserves answers,” Hackney said. “One person who has that key to us hasn’t provided that to us and that is very frustrating.”
Ebron first told police he left 21-month-old Lonzie in his car parked at the Ravenwood Apartments in the 8000 block of South Old Kings Road in the Baymeadows area about 2:20 a.m. Friday. Ebron told police he was preparing to pick up the mother from her job at Wacko’s Gentleman’s Club, located near the corner of Emerson St. and Spring Park Road, and had the boy and his 5-year-old sister in the car when he went back into the apartment.
The boy's 5-year-old sister then left the car to tell Ebron that she was scared, and he went outside to find the car and toddler gone, police said Ebron told them. Police arrived on scene in two minutes, and located the 1995 orange Honda Civic in about 15 to 20 minutes, abandoned and with the keys still inside, just a short distance away in the 8100 block of Cesperdes Avenue.
Lonzie was nowhere to be found.
Police have since interviewed Lonzie's 5-year-old sister at least twice, but they still don't know what she's seen. None of her answers have been anything concrete enough to lead to Lonzie, though.
"She's cooperative, but she's 5 years old," Hackney said. He later added: "Her story kind of went back and forth about whether they were or were not in the car."
Hackney could not say if anyone had tried to coach the girl on her answers.
Hackney said police later learned through Ebron's own admission that he went inside the apartment to use cocaine. But police do not believe anyone stole the vehicle while Ebron was inside doing drugs, Hackney said.
Police on Friday initially said Ebron was cooperative and was at police headquarters of his own free will. But that has since changed and Ebron was charged with two counts of felony child neglect on Friday.
"I am not able to disclose to you child victims of child neglect, so I can't tell you what two children he was charged with neglect over," Hackney said. "People aren't stupid."
It has become clear was that Ebron's car was never stolen, Hackney said.
"We're still going to work this as an abduction, because honestly, I don't know what happened to Lonzie," Hackney said. "I can't say at this point in time whether Lonzie is alive or dead. We're going to work this case with that information, and work it as many different ways as we need to recover Lonzie.
"My hopes, prayers and thoughts are that we are able to find Lonzie alive, that somewhere along this chain of events that caused Ebron to do whatever he did, whether he intentionally or unintentionally harmed the child, or something happened to the child, or if the child is alive and fine.
"We don't know."
Police still believe the mother and biological father have nothing to do with Lonzie's disappearance, so, Hackney said, the focus comes back to Ebron.
"Without a doubt, the report he gave that his car was taken by some unknown suspect is a lie and not true," Hackney said. "I'm going to allow the Amber Alert to stay — because if this is an abduction, and I feel like by definition it is — then Ebron is the suspect of that abduction and [the Amber Alert] continues to allow focus to remain on that until I recover Lonzie."
The last confirmed sighting of Lonzie was around 8 p.m. on Thursday by the boy's mother, Hackney said. Because police believe Ebron to be lying about the car theft, it also means the boy could have gone missing earlier, sometime between 8 p.m. and 2:20 a.m. Friday. Anyone who saw Ebron's distinctive orange car during that time frame is asked to call police at (904) 630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
Additionally, anyone who may have talked to Ebron recently is being urged to call police, Hackney said. Their conversations and interactions may allow police to know where to go with future interviews and searches, he said.
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