MACCLENNY, Fla. – More than three weeks after his 21-month-old son disappeared while being cared for by the boyfriend of the toddler's mother, Lonzie Barton's father spoke to News4Jax about the search and the suspect's appearance in court.
The toddler was last seen July 23 at a apartment complex on Old Kings Road. Police knocked on his door before dawn the next morning to tell him Lonzie was missing.
"They said that my son has been abducted," Chris Barton said.
Barton was emotional at times as he asked that people didn't forget his son. Despite the fact that police are now considering this a homicide case, he believes Lonzie is alive and being loved.
"I think that he's out there somewhere, that he's happy that he's playing and making someone else smile, the way he makes us smile," Barton said.
Barton did not want to show his face during the interview, saying he wanted to focus all the public's attention on his son.
Chris Barton says he heard his son's voice on the phone two days before he disappeared, and he'll never forget the last time he laid his eyes on his youngest child.
"Before he left to go back with his mom, he held me real tight and gave me a kiss on the cheek," Barton said.
Barton said it's these memories of his little boy that keep him from falling apart and also believing he'll see his son alive again one day.
"You got to believe. You got to believe in something, and now is not the time for negative thoughts. I pray and I hope that he's out there somewhere," Barton said. "Naturally, no one can love him like me and his mom. Let's hope someone's showing him love. You can't help but love him. If you're around him, as you lay eyes on him, you get a feeling for his personality and you fall in love with him right away."
Barton said he said questioned Lonzie's mother, Lonna, and believes she doesn't know anything about what happened.
"In your heart of hearts and your intuition as a dad and a husband, you believe that she had nothing to do with this," Barton said. "I've been married to her for seven years and very few people know her as well as I do. I can tell when she's lying and I can tell when she tries to avoid the subject and when she doesn't. Her mind is set on one thing, and that's finding her baby."
He also said he doesn't focus on the prime suspect, Ruben Ebron who sits in jail charged with two counts of child neglect and one count of lying to police. Instead, he's laser-focused on Lonzie's 5-year-old sister.
"She's great; she's doing good, she's happy. She's with her granny and she talks about (Lonzie)," Barton said. "We try not to push the issue. I haven't asked her not one question about this, about him, about the whole situation. Anything that she says is strictly coming straight from her heart, her thoughts."
Barton said if the sister knows anything that could help investigators, it will come out in her own time. He said he comforts her and she comforts him.
Barton said there are several fundraising accounts using Lonzie's name on the Internet, but the only one he as approved is the Go Fund Me account of the Lonzie search group.