Father visits Ruben Ebron in jail

Expert: Case could see big development as Ebron heads back to court Tuesday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The man who led police to what are believed to be the remains of toddler Lonzie Barton had his first jail visit in months on Monday.

Ruben Ebron, the man police have long called their prime suspect in the 21-month-old's disappearance, had his visits and calls restricted by a judge in September. Ebron is currently facing charges of child neglect, lying to police and tampering with evidence.

Judge Mark Borello lifted the visitation restrictions last Monday, the same day police announced that Ebron had led them to a wooded area in Bayard where a child's remains were found.

The medical examiner is still working to confirm if the remains are Lonzie's.

In the meantime, Ebron, who reported Lonzie missing in July, saw his father for the first time in months on Monday. William Ebron Sr. spend about two hours with his son at the jail, which is the maximum visitation time.

William Ebron told News4Jax that he has advised his son to be 100 percent truthful. The elder Ebron said this has gone on too long and the truth needs to come out so that everyone can get closure. He said he has not spoken to his son about the details of the case.

Ebron's contact remains restricted with Lonna Barton, Lonzie's mother, who was Ebron's girlfriend when the toddler disappeared last July.

Lonna Barton has pleaded guilty to charges of child neglect and lying to police. In her plea, she pledge to testify truthfully if called in Ebron's trial.

That trial, which was scheduled to begin last Monday, has been postponed indefinitely. A status conference for the trial is scheduled for Tuesday.

But News4Jax legal analyst Rhonda Peoples-Waters said the 9 a.m. hearing could lead to much more.

Sources told News4Jax last week that Ebron had reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, but that Borello declined to sign off on the deal.

It's possible, Peoples-Waters said, that the deal could now go through.

"Either Ruben Ebron could enter a plea tomorrow, and he could be sentenced, or he could enter a plea and the judge accepts his plea and schedules his sentencing for a later date," Peoples-Waters said.

Sources said that deal would include Ebron pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter and serving a 20-year prison sentence.

"It's very likely that Ruben Ebron, when he made this plea deal, asked to have everything combined, so all charges would definitely be under consideration for that 20 years and everything would run concurrently," Peoples-Waters said.

What's next for Ruben Ebron?

At a news conference announcing the remains had been found, State Attorney Angela Corey said new charges are being considered, but she declined to say how many or who they would be filed against.

"When a child is in the custody of multiple adults and we don't have a way to time the injuries, it's been a historic problem for us," Corey said. "It's very difficult when there is more than one person involved and the cause of death is not immediately known."

Peoples-Waters said it's also possible that Ebron provided information to investigators that could poke holes in Barton's previous claims about not knowing what happened to Lonzie.

"If it is determined that she provided some untruthful testimony, then her plea deal may unravel and be undone and she may be exposed to additional charges or more time," Peoples-Waters said.

Ebron reported Lonzie missing July 24 and at first claimed that the toddler was abducted when his car was stolen with Lonzie inside.

Police said Monday that they believe Lonzie was dead before Ebron made that call.

Chief Tom Hackney with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office countered the story Ebron told by releasing home surveillance video in August that investigators said showed Ebron ditching his car in the same spot where it was found less than a mile from the apartment complex before he called 911 to report Lonzie missing.

Police quickly charged Ebron with child neglect and lying to police. Later, charges of tampering with evidence were added after police said they found images had been deleted from Ebron's phone.

Ebron had long maintained that he did not know where Lonzie was, but late Sunday he led police to a wooded area on the Southside where a child's remains were found.

"The search led us to the body and now that changes things somewhat," Corey said. "We have to reevaluate and go from there."

Ebron also faces charges related to a planned escape from jail, but Borello split those into a separate trial. It's unclear what will happen with that trial if a plea agreement is reached on Ebron's other charges. 

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