Lonzie's big sister told authorities: 'He got stolen ... it's my fault'

Just-released evidence shows Ruben Ebron almost led police to body

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Contained in hundreds of pages of evidence and hours of recordings released Wednesday in the case against Ruben Ebron were disturbing details on Lonzie Barton's death, including that Ebron almost led police to the toddler's body within 24 hours of his disappearance last summer.

Two weeks ago, Ebron pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and other charges, telling prosecutors Lonzie accidentally drowned in a bathtub while he and the boy's mother, Lonna Barton, were having sex, and he disposed of the body out of fear.

Prosecutors and police say Ebron made up a story that Lonzie was taken when his car was stolen that night.

According to the transcript of an interview with Lonzie's 5-year-old sister, she said, "I miss my little brother. He got stolen."

But among the reports the State Attorney's Office released was one dated July 24, 2015, that showed Ebron almost gave up the body within the first 24 hours.

"Ebron told detectives he wanted to go show them where the victim was. … When Detective Sullivan and Sergeant Coarsey got to Interstate 95 and Philips Highway, Ebron told the detectives that he never said he wanted to take them to where the victim was, rather just show them his 'route.'"

That route took them close to the area where Lonzie's remains were found six months later -- the day Ebron's trial was to begin.

Tips -- including information given by Lonzie's 5-year-old sister -- led them to extensively search that area in the days after his disappearance.

Detectives even put the girl in a car and encouraged her to lead them to the area where Lonzie was. She directed them to Philips Highway south of the Avenues Mall. She couldn't pinpoint a spot to search, saying only, "Look in the woods," and it was near "the blue house, the green house and purple and pink houses."

"I learned from a couple of different sources that at one point Lonzie's sister said that they came in to this area, and she identified it because she said there was a dinosaur in the yard, and also a lit fountain," WJXT crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said.

News4Jax found those colorful houses in the Bayard area Wednesday night and learned that while the lit fountain is no longer there, six months ago it sat next to a dinosaur in one front yard.

Last month, Ebron led them to Lonzie's skeletal remains in a wooded area off State Road 9B south of Bayard -- a couple of miles south of the area police searched.

"I think if she told police and police (were) here on the street a lot, they should have known to come in this area and search," homeowner Justin Worthen said. "I mean. the dinosaur, it's been here over 5 to 6 years."

In another document released, investigators wrote that a small amount of Lonzie's blood was found on Ebron's clothes, and on the carpet and bedsheets in his apartment. Evidence photos show the inside of that apartment, including the bathtub where Ebron said he found Lonzie dead.

Former crime-scene detective Michael Knox reviewed evidence released and questioned Ebron's story, but evidence is limited. 

"If the cause of death is drowning, you would not expect to find any blood," Knox said.

Surveillance video shows Ruben Ebron at a nearby laundromat washing his clothes in the hours before reporting Lonzie missing. The 5-year-old told investigators Lonzie wasn't in his car seat when Ruben took them to the laundromat. She said she last saw her little brother about 8 p.m.

"The truth is my little brother got kidnapped. I left him in the car all alone. It's my fault," the girl told investigators.

A psychologist said he understands why the child blames herself.

"It's very common for young children to blame themselves for harsh circumstances or events," Dr. Gabriel Ybarra said. "So even if parents are divorcing or separating, a child tends to blame themselves."

Ybarra said the girl is likely carrying the burden that she was supposed to keep her little brother safe, but as doctors work with her to remember positive times with her little brother, in time, that trauma can heal."

"A particular type of psychotherapy -- cognitive behavioral -- (can) help her to work through her experience, to correct false ideas, such as if she was responsible," Ybarra said.

DOCUMENT: DNA evidence collected and JSO's original police report on 'kidnapping'

Also released was an audio recording of an 85-minute phone call from Lonna Barton to Ebron in jail after his arrest. One moment of silence during the visit is chilling.

Barton: "They just feel like you're withholding information of where he is. That's what they keep telling me is that, 'He can tell us where he is and he won't.'"
Ebron: "You believe that?"
Barton: "I believe that you would give me my baby."
After waiting 10 second for Ebron to reply, she continued.
Barton: "And I told them why the --- would he hurt my baby when we('re) about to get married."

The details of the case shown in the documents are confusing and contradicting, with detectives investigated a number of different scenarios about what happened to Lonzie and who was involved. These records document countless resources and tireless efforts police and prosecutors made to try to get answers.

The records document concerning complaints, one before Lonzie disappeared, in which Ruben Ebron's mother, Wanda, told child welfare investigators her son said: "I can see why people kill their kids or run into the river with their cars."

A friend of Ebron's told police she was concerned about Lonzie weeks before his death because he had unexplainable injuries.

"She said he looked like he had been in a car crash, he was so bruised up," a detective wrote in a report. "She said (Lonzie) was walking funny and thought he might have hurt his leg."

The investigations included more than 100 pages of cellphone records from Ebron and other potential witnesses plus audio recordings, including this exchange during a visit to Ebron in jail by his uncle, Nathaniel Williams.

Williams: "How old you is now?"
Ebron: "32."
Williams: "Oh s----. You're gonna outlive this s---- here. You're gonna outlive this two times. And you know what? It will come a time when nobody is even talking about it. When someone will say 'Ruben who?' But it's incumbent on you to make the right decisions. Those decisions are yours, bro."
Ebron: "A little insight does help."

During the investigation, officers combed through hundreds of tips, including one that: "While Ebron was out on a drug run, (Lonzie) ingested drugs (possibly heroin) and Ebron and (omitted) disposed of his body."

Ebron's friend told police he called her two days later and was crying.

"(He) made statements like, 'I freaked out ... I panicked. The baby is gone."

There is a lot of discussion in the documents about Ebron's girlfriend and Lonzie's mother, Lonna Barton, but there's no evidence to prove whether she was involved in his death. Records show she made comments that Ebron was a good babysitter and she originally thought that Lonzie's father, Chris Barton, took him.

Lonna Barton still claims she had nothing to do with his disappearance. She has pleaded guilty to child neglect and lying to police and is awaiting sentencing.

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