Search for Lonzie Barton continues on Southside
Authorities focus on retention ponds, other bodies of water
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a long day of searching retention ponds, woods and neighborhoods on the Southside, the man directing a massive search for 21-month-old Lonzie Barton is frustrated that the one man who knows where the boy is lying to police.
"The one thing that will solve this case is by Ruben Ebron cooperating with the police and telling us where Lonzie is," said Tom Hackney, chief of investigations of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
The toddler disappeared late Thursday night or early Friday morning while William Ruben Ebron Jr. was watching Lonzie and his 5-year-old sister while the children's mother was at work. Ebron, who was arrested Friday night on child neglect charges, is now considered a suspect in Lonzie's disappearance.
Sunday night, Hackney for the first time talked in terms of recovering a body rather than the search being a rescue effort.
"Time slips and our chances of finding Lonzie slips, as well," Hackey said. "We want a positive resolution. Nevertheless, we want a resolution. (His mother) deserves answers and Lonzie deserves justice for what may have happened to him."
Over 150 officers from local, state and federal agencies spent the day focused on an area south of the Avenues Mall in the search. Police, K-9 and dive teams are searching bodies of water, wooded area and a mobile home park near Philips Highway and Interstate 295 where Ebron used to live.
Ebron, 32, initially told investigators that Lonzie was taken, along with his car, about 2 a.m. Friday from outside the apartment they shared with the boy's mother.
The car Ebron reported stolen was found a only blocks away with the keys still inside within 20 minutes of Ebron's 911 call. Hackney said Ebron was inside the apartment doing cocaine at the time he said Lonzie was abducted.
An Amber Alert remains in effect for Lonzie, who has blonde hair, blue eyes, weighs 20 pounds and is about 2.5 feet tall. He was wearing only a diaper when he was last seen.
"We will go where the tips and information lead us," Hackney said. "As evidence comes back, that leads us various places. We're looking in these bodies of water for a reason."
Hackney said in addition to detectives, patrol officers, dive team and other resources from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, the FBI and Florida Fish and Wildlife are assisting in the search for Lonzie.
Texas Equusearch, a mounted search-and-recovery team, is expected to join the search efforts Monday, as will officers from nearby law enforcement agencies who have volunteered to help.
"I have a lot of areas to search. I have a lot of wooded areas to search; a lot of bodies of water to search. That's a group of people that are helping us look. By looking, we find," Hackney said.
On Saturday, Ebron appeared in court and was ordered held on $100,000 bond. If released, he must wear a GPS monitor and comply with several restrictions.
Lonzie's mother, who lived with Ebron at the Old Kings Road apartment, and father, who lives in Baker County, are cooperating with police and investigators don't believe either had anything to do with Lonzie's disappearance, Hackney said.
The 5-year-old girl has been interviewed several times. Hackney said she is cooperating as much as she can.
Anyone with information about Lonzie's whereabouts or who saw Ebron between 8 p.m. Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or 911. Callers can remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $3,000 by calling Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.
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