JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County Circuit Judge Mark Borello ruled Thursday morning that Lonzie Barton's mother and her boyfriend, Ruben Ebron, will be tried at the same time.
Lonna Barton and Ebron are charged with child neglect and lying to police in the July 24 disappearance of 21-month-old Lonzie. Their cases will be tried together with separate juries in a trial scheduled to begin Dec. 7.
"Essentially because it's economical not to have a trial and then a week later have another trial. There could be multiple juries, but the actual testimony will only be heard one time," said criminal attorney Janet Johnson, who's not connected to either case.
Ebron also faces charges related to an alleged escape attempt after his initial arrest. Borello ruled that case will be prosecuted separately.
"(The judge) did sort of pick and choose what they could hear based on things that would not be relevant and would not be detrimental," Johnson said.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Barton left Lonzie with Ebron and went to work the night of July 23, even though Lonzie had apparent head injuries and fluid coming out of his ears.
Ebron called police early the next morning and said his car had been stolen with Lonzie inside. Police have said that never happened. Hundreds of law enforcement personnel searched for days for Lonzie, but he has not been found.
Both Ebron and Barton contend that they had nothing to do with the boy's disappearance, and neither faces any charges directly related to it.
Barton's attorney argued against the joint trial and said there are some legal issues to be addressed, but he said he will not appeal anything before the trial.
After Thursday's hearing, Ebron's father said the family was not happy about the joint trial.
"I think it's going to get messy. I mean, you're joining two cases -- not all the charges are the same. Two different juries? Somewhere down the line it's going to prejudice one or both cases," William Ebron said. "It is very tough, but we're strong. We're going to remain strong."
William Ebron acknowledged that he will have to get used to seeing Barton in court with his son.
"I have no ill feelings toward her," William Ebron said. "We are God-fearing people. She is missing a child. I feel for her. I feel for that family. On the other hand, someone knows something."
If Barton and Ruben Ebron are convicted of both child neglect and lying to police, they each face a maximum of six years behind bars.
The next hearing for the two will be Nov. 9.