JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The prime suspect in the disappearance of 21-month-old Lonzie Barton pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts of child neglect and one count of lying to police.
William Ruben Ebron Jr. was the boyfriend of Lonzie's mother and is believed to be the last person who saw the toddler alive.
Ebron, 32, was charged with two counts of child neglect after Lonzie's disappearance more than three weeks ago. An additional charge of giving false information to police was added Friday.
"He started off by falsely reporting that someone stole the child," Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei said, adding that he told more lies. "Almost too much to list, honestly. We would be here quite a while if I started to list them."
Monday morning, Ebron was in an orange jump suit and shackles as a judge formally read the charges against him. He pleaded not guilty. A pretrial hearing was set for Sept. 2.
Ebron will remain in jail on $100,000 bond. Prosecutors said before Ebron would be able to post bond, authorities asked that he appear at a Nebbia hearing to make sure the money used comes from legitimate sources, not the proceeds of drug sales.
Prosecutors also told the judge that Ebron attempted to profit from Lonzie's disappearance by asking media outlets to be paid for interviews for an on-camera interview about what happened the night the boy disappeared.
Even if Ebron were to post bond in Duval County, he would not be able to walk away. There is an outstanding warrant for his arrest from Baker County on an outstanding drug case.
"It would just be a change of location," Mantei said.
Search for Lonzie Barton evolves into murder investigation
July 24, Ebron called 911 to report that Lonzie was in his car that was stolen from the Ravenwood Apartments on Old Kings Road in the Southside. Within minutes, Ebron's 1995 Honda Civic was found four blocks away, but Lonzie was not in it.
Hundreds of officers searched the neighborhood. K-9s and helicopters were used as well. Later that evening, Ebron was arrested on the child neglect charges.
The next day, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Ebron admitted to using cocaine before reporting the boy missing. Investigators said they no longer believed his story.
An intense, 10-day search for the toddler ultimately covered 40 square miles and over 300 bodies of water.
With Ebron still not cooperating with police and sticking to the car-theft story in a newspaper interview, the sheriff's office released surveillance video of Ebron's Civic going down the street where it was found, then a man they claim is Ebron, running from the scene minutes before the Ebron made the 911 call to report that his car was stolen with Lonzie inside.
That same day, investigators worked with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to cancel the Amber Alert for Lonzie. Investigators then said they were working on building a murder case against Ebron, even though the toddler's body had not been found.
An ex-girlfriend of Ebron now claims Ebron raped her in his apartment earlier this summer while Lonzie, his sister and the victim's three children were home. The woman told police that Ebron had also sexually battered her last November.