Police: Ruben Ebron had plans to escape from jail

4 charges added against suspect in Lonzie Barton's disappearance

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Ruben Ebron Jr.
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Ruben Ebron Jr.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The man who is considered the prime suspect in the disappearance of 21-month-old Lonzie Barton was hit with new charges Thursday after police said he was planning to escape from jail.

William Ruben Ebron Jr., who was already facing two counts of child neglect and one count of lying to police, has been charged with attempted escape from jail, possession of a handcuff key, possession of contraband and criminal conspiracy.

His bond has been increased to $112,000.

According to a report from police, Investigators have recordings of Ebron talking with an inmate about the escape plan. They said he didn't deny planning to escape and even showed that inmate the handcuff key.

Police said Ebron told the inmate he was going to escape while being transported from the courthouse back to the jail.

Police said that Ebron had two makeshift handcuff keys, one of which was an orange piece of plastic shaped like a handcuff key that he gave to that inmate, and told the man he could escape with him.

The inmate told police that Ebron said he had tested the keys out when he was locked up in Baker County, and he knew that they worked and that he had a plan to escape.

That plan, according to police, was to jump out of the back of a jail transportation van and take off on foot to a waiting getaway vehicle.

The problem with the plan was that the getaway driver was recently arrested and Ebron was working on getting another getaway vehicle in place near the courthouse, police said.

Officials said that the other inmate came to police with Ebron's plan and they set up a recorded conversation with the two.

Ebron was originally arrested for child neglect and later, a charge of giving false information to police while they investigated the disappearance of Lonzie Barton, was added. 

Ebron, the boyfriend of Lonzie's mother, is believed to be the last person who saw the toddler alive and allegedly lied to police since the beginning of the investigation. 

"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."

Ebron pleaded not guilty to those three charges, and a pretrial hearing was set for Sept. 2. The four new charges were added Thursday.

Prosecutors said before Ebron would be able to post bond that he would 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 on-camera interviews 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 a drug case.

"It would just be a change of location," Mantei said.