JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Lawyers for Ruben Ebron, the man police say is the prime suspect in the disappearance of toddler Lonzie Barton, have removed the boy's sister from a witness list, but it's likely the boy's mother will be called to testify on Friday.
Ebron will face trial next week on charges of child neglect, lying to police and tampering with evidence.
In a motions hearing Thursday, the state and defense argued whether or not evidence taken from Ebron's cellphone while he was being questioned at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was legal.
Judge Mark Borello has not yet ruled on the motion on the cellphone evidence and the hearing was continued to 2 p.m. Friday.
Lonzie's mother, Lonna Barton, will likely be called to testify at Friday's hearing, according to her attorney, Kevin Carlisle.
Ebron, who was dating Barton when Lonzie disappeared in July, 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.
In Thursday's hearing, Assistant State Attorney Rich Mantei said that Ebron voluntarily gave his cellphones -- he had two with him at the time -- to Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detectives and told them they could look at them.
Ebron's defense attorney said that when Ebron, who went to the interview voluntarily, asked to leave, he was revoking his consent for detectives to go through his phone. He also claimed that Ebron never directly gave consent to search his phone.
JSO Sgt. Shawn Coarsey testified Thursday that investigators asked for permission to look through the entire phone and later asked for additional permission to search the GPS on the phone.
Ebron's defense attorney, James Boyle, argued that detectives never asked permission to download any data from Ebron’s phone.
Coarsey: We asked him if we could look at his phone. He is giving me permission to look at his phone (in the video of his initial interview).
Boyle: To look at the phone.
Coarsey: That's semantics, Mr. Boyle. I don't believe for one minute that he's expecting me to just pick the phone up and look at it. And I say that because he directed us to the phone on numerous occasions, because he said himself he wanted to be 100 percent cooperative.
Lonzie's sister won't testify
Ebron's defense team had previously asked that Lonzie's 5-year-old sister testify during the trial.
The girl's guardian ad litem testified at a motions hearing Wednesday and said the child would not be a competent witness and has told several versions of the case. She said that it would not be in the child's best interest to testify.
Borello had agreed to a competency hearing Thursday for the child, but before the hearing Ebron's lawyers withdrew the girl's name from the witness list.
Ebron will also face trial on charges related to a planned escape attempt from jail.
The counts against him were severed into two trials Wednesday. The escape-related charges will be tried before Feb. 17.
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.