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Police: Likelihood of finding toddler alive fades

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a third day of the massive search for 21-month-old Lonzie Barton, police for the first time talked in terms of recovering a body rather than a rescue effort.

"Time slips and our chances of finding Lonzie slips, as well," Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Director of Investigations Tom Hackey said Sunday night. 

Over 150 officers from local, state and federal agencies spent the day focused on an area south of the Avenues Mall in the search. Meanwhile, a suspect in the toddler's disappearance early Friday morning sits in the Duval County jail, not cooperating with police.

"As time progresses, as time goes on, our chances of finding Lonzie alive slip away. That breaks my heart," Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Chief of Detectives Tom Hackney said Sunday morning. "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."

PRINTABLE: Lonzie Barton Amber Alert flyer
PHOTOS: Timeline of toddler's abduction

Police, K-9 and dive teams are now forced on a wooded area, bodies of water and a mobile home park on Saturday near Philips Highway and Interstate 295 where William Ruben Ebron Jr., the man who last saw Lonzie, used to live.

At 10:45 a.m. police say the search for Lonzie Barton is widening. After receiving a tip,divers search a lake along Shops Lane, near the Walmart across from the Avenues Mall.
At 10:45 a.m. police say the search for Lonzie Barton is widening. After receiving a tip,divers search a lake along Shops Lane, near the Walmart across from the Avenues Mall.

"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."

Asked what the public could do to help, Hackney noted it was a Sunday morning.

"If you're so inclined ... pray. Pray for the answers. Pray for a successful resolution," Hackney said.

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.

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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.

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.

"We're working this case now still as an abduction, but we believe that Mr. Ebron is the suspect in our abduction," Hackney said. "I can't say at this point and time whether Lonzie is alive or dead."

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.

JSO has asked Texas Equusearch, who has been involved in many of the nation's biggest missing person's cases, to join the search.

"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.

At 2:30 p.m. July 25, William Ruben Ebron makes a first appearance on the child neglect charges.A judge sets bond at $100,000 and sets out several restrictions he would face if he does get out of jail. STORY
At 2:30 p.m. July 25, William Ruben Ebron makes a first appearance on the child neglect charges.A judge sets bond at $100,000 and sets out several restrictions he would face if he does get out of jail. STORY

Ebron, 32, was arrested late Friday and charged with two counts of felony child neglect in a different case. On Saturday, he was ordered held on $100,000 bond and must wear a GPS monitor and comply with several restrictions if he is released.

"Ruben Ebron has the answer that I need," Hackney said. "He's lying to us. He's trying to manipulate investigators."

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.

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.