JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New evidence released by the State Attorney's Office in the case against Ruben Ebron, the man linked to the disappearance of Lonzie Barton this summer, includes hundreds of text messages that appear to show Ebron bought and sold drugs regularly in the months before the toddler disappeared.
Prosecutors say the phone records show Ebron had people asking to buy drugs from him even after Lonzie was reported missing on the morning of July 24.
Ebron is facing a number of charges, including child neglect, lying to police and tampering with evidence, but he has not been charged with Lonzie's death. The boy's body has still not been found, and police have called.
Ebron the prime suspect in his disappearance.
Page after page of conversations from Ebron's phone were subpoenaed from his cellphone company by prosecutors.
An initial order to have the phone records included in the trial was struck down by the judge, who requested more information about the relevance to the charges Ebron faces. Judge Mark Borello next week will set a date to hear arguments from prosecutors and the defense. He'll make the decision after that on whether to allow the messages in the trial.
Some of the messages include conversations with Ebron's mother, his ex-girlfriend and his current girlfriend, Lonzie's mother, Lonna Barton. The message exchanges with Ebron's mother, Wanda Ebron, show she hated his lifestyle and called him "a pathological liar and a sociopath" in one hostile exchange.
"I despise your stupidity and lack of remorse for your behavior," Wanda Ebron wrote. She said that he was raised better than this and that his alleged drug dealing and dating life were out of hand.
Ruben Ebron replied, "You worried about everybody else's life but you ain't worried about your own and look what's happening."
Later, his mom wrote "Karma Lol. Yours will be here soon. Seriously, you should get a job so you can get a good lawyer -- but that probably won't matter because God don't like ugly."
Other messages among the hundreds obtained by prosecutors show Ruben Ebron advertising that he has just about every drug out there -- all for sale -- from heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and MDMA to prescription narcotics.
Many of his text exchanges are with people who work at adult entertainment clubs, and involve setting prices and meeting places for the deals.
Woman's text: "Can you get anything in bulk?"
Ebron's reply: "I should be straight in a couple hours."
"Acid tabs broski," another person writes. Prosecutors said the messages show that Ebron was buying and selling drugs regularly in the months before Lonzie disappeared. Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei wrote in an order that Ebron was "on multiple occasions the person charged with the care, custody, and control of the minor children in his care," claiming that Ebron stated he was "running a daycare for strippers."
The text messages also show Ebron's conversations the morning he reported Lonzie missing.
After a message at 12:48 a.m., there was nothing until Ebron called 911 at 2:20 a.m., claiming the toddler was abducted. By 3:21 that morning he was text messaging again, sending six texts total, but making no mention of the boy's disappearance.
“It really paints picture of who he is,” News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said. “It really tells about his character. What type of person he is. What types of activities he's involved in it.”
Smith pointed out that the messages have nothing to do with the missing boy. He said prosecutors are trying to use the messages to persuade the jury that Ebron was up to no good.
“They are trying to show what this person's character is and what he may be capable of doing,” Smith said.
Attorney Gene Nichols, who is not involved in the case, said the phone records are evidence the state wants and the defense doesn't. The judge has already ruled that all of these messages won't be shown to the jury. But prosecutors have a chance to get some of them admitted as evidence in Ebron's trial.
“If they can establish that at the time he's with the child that he is participating possibly in a drug deal, he is participating in other activities ... that he's not taking care of the child. That is when the judge would decide, 'Yes these should probably come in,'” Nichols said.
Nichols said that prosecutors are trying to show that Ebron was negligent and that his actions likely led to Lonzie's disappearance.
Neither the State Attorney's Office nor Ebron's defense attorneys wanted to comment on this story because the case is still active.