JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The owner of the wooded property where police found what they believe are the remains of toddler Lonzie Barton said he hopes the discovery proves to be a step toward justice for the 21-month-old boy.
Lonzie was reported missing last July. The prime suspect in the case, Ruben Ebron, led police to the end of Snyder Street near State Road 9B in Bayard on Jan. 10. They found the remains of a child in that area early Jan. 11 and are working to confirm if they are Lonzie's.
"I hate to see something like that happened to the kid," property owner Gary Morrison said. "I just really hate it, but at least they found him, you know. You just have to look at it that way."
Crime Scene Unit and homicide investigators spent five days combing the area for more evidence. They left on Friday.
Morrison has no trespassing signs posted all across the property, but on Monday he took News4Jax back to the edge of his property, where detectives said they found the remains.
"It's quite a ways back in here," Morrison said as he led a News4Jax crew through 200 feet of thick brush and weeds.
Morrison has owned the land for years and rents it out. Two families live on the property, which borders SR 9B. The part of the woods where the remains were found is likely public land.
"You can come in from 9B and that's only 35-40 feet through the swamp to get through this area," Morrison explained.
Morrison said the area is off the beaten path, and he doesn't know how Ebron knew about it.
He said he visited the property a few times a week and he did notice a foul smell, but he thought it was because people often dump animal carcasses in the vicinity.
"It's not out of the ordinary, because there's all kinds of animal carcasses dumped out here on a regular basis," Morrison said. "I just don't pay any attention to the smell."
Morrison said the spot has now been bulldozed because detectives had to do a thorough search, but before it looked much like the surrounding woods. It was raised a little bit, as a trash mound created decades ago and covered in brush, dirt and weeds.
"Right over there where that clear area is, they pushed the dirt back from the mound, pushed it back over the area," Morrison said. "Over the years they dump the trash along the roadways, but this back here was people filling in the property, and that's how they used to do it 40 years ago."
Morrison said he's had big problems with people dumping illegally and trespassing on the property for years. He's asked police to patrol the area.
He said that this weekend, officers caught two people who walked on the property to see the spot where detectives found the remains. He's said it's dangerous, and he doesn't want anyone on his land.