Dad of suspect in toddler's disappearance believes son did not hurt Lonzie
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The father of the man police said lied about how Lonzie Barton disappeared and who is the key to finding the missing toddler said his son loves children and would not have hurt the boy.
William Ebron said he visited his 32-year-old son, William Ruben Ebron Jr., who goes by Ruben, in jail on Sunday. His son is being held on $100,000 bond on two counts of felony child neglect. (Ruben Ebron pictured below in Saturday first-appearance hearing)
The son insisted to his dad that he did not hurt Lonzie, and the father said he believes him, despite his son's criminal background.
"He is not the monster they are making him out to be," William Ebron said. "I believe he would never do anything to intentionally hurt a child. That is my belief, not only as a father, but as a person."
William Ebron is retired military and said he was a strict father. He is praying for his son and praying that Lonzie is found safe.
"I asked him point blank certain things. Did you unintentionally hurt him or something? He looked me in my eyes and said, 'Daddy, no.' I said, 'You need to be 100 percent truthful with detectives and everyone so that we can find this little boy.'"
Police said there are major gaps in Ruben Ebron's story and they think he is lying.
"I really wish I could believe him when he tells me that or when he tells his father that, but I can't. I know the evidence, I know the facts that we're putting together now. They are pieces that are missing, and what is frustrating to myself, the detectives, those who are searching, is that Ruben Ebron has the answers that we need. There are gaps in the timeline that only he could fill in," Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Chief of Investigations Tom Hackney said.
Ruben Ebron, who is jailed on two counts of felony child abuse and is considered a suspect in Lonzie's disappearance, has a criminal history going back to 2005. During a five-year period, he was arrested on various misdemeanor charges, from worthless checks to trespassing and traffic violations.
Court records show he became more aggressive in 2010, when he was found guilty of grand theft and spent 97 days in jail.
In 2011, Ruben Ebron was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge, pleaded no contest and served 47 days. Also in 2011, he was found guilty of grand theft and sentenced to 165 days in jail, plus five years' probation. He violated that probation in 2012 and served 210 days in jail.
More recently, Ebron Jr. and Lonzie's mother, Lonna Barton, were co-defendants on several drug charges in Baker County, where Barton is from.
Ruben Ebron was accused of beating his ex-girlfriend in Duval County, and earlier this month, that girlfriend's sister filed an injunction against him for stalking. According to court records, he threatened the life of a 12-year-old girl, left threatening phone messages and told his ex-girlfriend that "he knows the system and can get away with anything."
The elder Ebron is not proud of the life his son has led.
"He's had some problems in the past and making bad decisions. But, as I said to anyone and everyone I know, he would never intentionally hurt a child. He loves kids and he loves little Lonzie," William Ebron said.
William Ebron said he told his son that if he knows anything, he'd better open his mouth and say so.
"I am just praying for the child. Just like I told my son yesterday (Sunday), I said, 'I can't do anything for your situation,' because he has the child neglect; that's his child neglect. I said, 'You have to own up to that and you have to pay for that. I just hope and pray that this child is found alive and I hope and pray that he is returned back to his mother,'" William Ebron said.
William Ebron said he knew his son was living with Lonna Barton and her two children, but he only met Lonzie once.
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