Public face of Lonzie Barton investigation retires from Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office

Tom Hackney is retiring after 29 years of service.

Tom Hackney (left), former Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Director of Investigations, with former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Tom Hackney (left), former Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Director of Investigations, with former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A well-known and highly-respected Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office supervisor is retiring after 29 years of service.

Director Tom Hackney started as a volunteer police explorer, moved to reserve officer and then became a patrol officer in 1991.

He rose through ranks to homicide investigator, Chief of Detectives, Director of Investigations and finally JSO’s Director of Personnel and Professional Standards.

Hackney was the face of the investigation into the disappearance of toddler Lonzie Barton in 2014. He was determined to solve the case; vowing to leave no stone unturned and get justice for the little boy and those who loved him. Hackney led detectives with multiple agencies and hundreds of searchers for months until police eventually found the boy’s remains.

Hackney held numerous news conference, garnering national attention, pleading for the boy’s mother and her boyfriend to tell the truth and give up details about what happened to the child. Eventually, they did. They’re now serving prison time.

Over the years, he worked hand in hand with the FBI, FDLE and numerous other departments on high-profile cases, including the murder of little Aiden McClendon, and the ambush shooting of a JSO detective who was taking his son to school. When Hackney spoke to the public through the media, it was directly, and there were times when you could hear the emotion in his voice.

Hackney's family members said he knew when to be serious and when to be silly. His wife and sister noted he's a man of integrity and left JSO a better department, spending his final years training and mentoring young officers.

“He made sure they knew that in police work, ‘giving just 100%’ sometimes wasn’t enough,” said his wife of 26 years, Dee Ann Hackney. “He was known for constantly reminding them ‘don’t do stupid stuff.’”

“Tom wants to be remembered as a servant to the people of Jacksonville, as well as a guy who knew how to be serious when it was needed and silly most other times,” she noted. “He is known for his wit and lightning-fast comebacks within the department.”

Many times, people urged Hackney to run for Sheriff, vowing to support him if he entered the race.

He has been recognized on many occasions, including by the Justice Coalition and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

“People are kind enough to let him know how much they appreciated his coverage in the news, especially the Lonzie Barton tragedy,” his wife said.

For now, he'll be working in the private sector as a director of HR. And he’ll have more time for his antique cars.

“We are so very proud of his integrity and professionalism he has instilled in the agency and community,” said his sister, Teresa Hackney Smith.

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