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Ruben Ebron trial to proceed next week

Ebron's charges separated into 2 trials; judge to decide if child will testify

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ruben Ebron, the man police say is the prime suspect in the disappearance of toddler Lonzie Barton, will face trial next week on charges of child neglect, lying to police and tampering with evidence.

Ebron, who was dating Lonzie's mother, Lonna Barton, when the toddler disappeared in July, will face trial later on charges related to a planned escape attempt from jail.

The counts against him were severed into two trials at a motions hearing Wednesday. The escape-related charges will be tried before Feb. 17.

Ebron was scheduled to go on trial Monday with Barton, but she will not face trial now after pleading guilty to her child neglect and lying to police charges Wednesday morning.

In her plea, Barton pledged to testify truthfully if called as a witness in Ebron's trial.

Ebron's defense team had fought efforts to try the two together and filed several motions in the case, including asking that Lonzie's 5-year-old sister testify.

The girl's guardian ad litem testified at the motions hearing and said the child would not be a competent witness and has told several versions of the case. The guardian ad litem "does not believe it would be in the child's best interest" to testify.

Judge Mark Borello agreed to a competency hearing for the child at 2 p.m. Thursday. The hearing will be in the judge's chambers with a court reporter and child advocate present.

Another motion addressed Wednesday was a request to block any evidence of Lonzie's DNA found inside Ebron's home or on clothing.

Borello denied that motion and said if the state could prove the timeframe, it could use the evidence.

The defense had argued that Ebron is not charged with harming a child, so DNA evidence isn’t relevant and that it would confuse the jury. The state argued that DNA is relevant because witnesses said before Ebron had Lonzie, no known injuries would have led to blood in places where it was found.

Ebron's defense also wants the court to suppress evidence collected from Ebron's cellphone, which led to the tampering with evidence charge. His lawyers said the evidence was obtained illegally.

Borello said the motion to suppress will be discussed at 3 p.m. Thursday because Wednesday's hearing began about 90 minutes late.

Ebron's parents say Lonna Barton is only looking out for herself

After Wednesday's hearing, Ebron's mother and father told News4Jax they thought that the mother of the missing toddler would likely turn on their son in order to limit her own time in prison.

"I knew, eventually, it would come to something that would happen, where one of them would talk," William Ebron said. "It's just less (jail) time, and she had to do what she had to do. So it is what is it.” 

William and Wanda Ebron attend every hearing because, with visitation in jail banned, it's the only time they can see their son.

The Ebron’s wouldn’t say anything specific about Wednesday's motion hearings because they don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize the case.

They did say Ruben appears to be putting on weight in jail and appears to be in good spirits.

Wanda Ebron also commented on reports that Barton was pregnant. Her attorney said Wednesday that Barton was not pregnant.  

”Only God knows and DNA," Mrs. Ebron said. "God and DNA; that’s all I know.”