Videos show final hours in search for Lonzie Barton
Police cameras record Ruben Ebron leading officers through woods
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The final moments in the sixth-month search for toddler Lonzie Barton's remains were recorded on police cameras.
The State Attorney's Office has released three videos in which Ruben Ebron, the man convicted of aggravated manslaughter and child abuse in the boy's death, can be heard and seen giving officers directions to where he discarded the 21-month-old's body.
After months of interrogation by detectives, the prime suspect in Lonzie's disappearance finally did what investigators had hoped, leading officers to the wooded area.
In pitch black darkness, Ebron first directed police to property at the end of Snyder Street in the Bayard area near 9B and Phillips Highway.
“Before you actually get to that dead end, I don't know if that mound is still there, but that's where I parked,” Ebron said. “Keep going. Keep going. Right there on your right. Pull right in there."
Ebron then physically led officers through the wooded area.
Every so often, a glimpse of a flashlight rolling over the wooded area can be seen, along with the back of Ebron's Duval County jail jumpsuit.
But the audio is the most powerful aspect of the videos. Ebron, who is now serving 20 years in prison in Lonzie's death, can be heard trying to find the spot where he left the boy's body but having a hard time because it's dark, it's heavily wooded, a lot of the property looks the same and it had been six months since he'd been there.
He returned with police on a Sunday night, hours before he was due to appear in court for jury selection in his trial.
The ride over was relatively quiet, aside from Ebron giving directions.
“Come up right by this motorcycle place,” he said. “Keep going through here.”
“It's like a little trail through here,” one officer said.
The trail didn't last long.
News4Jax walked the same path a few days after police announced they found a child's remains in the woods. The woods are thick in the area with a lot of underbrush, swampy areas and debris.
Ebron can be heard telling police he dug a hole near three tires and a tree.
"You were holding that baby. That's what I'm trying to figure out,” one officer said.
"I just ran…" Ebron said.
"You couldn't have gone too far,” the officer said.
"I went as deep as I could,” Ebron explained. “And I went and I had that flashlight on. Where we were just at with those tires, it was something just like that. And I went to start digging, and then I thought, 'A little bit further,' so I went a little bit further. It was almost identical. But it was a tree and it already had a little like… (rustling) someone had already dug a hole (inaudible), and I saw three tires sitting up, like someone had just pulled them off a truck."
The police camera footage in the woods is more than an hour long. Ebron and the officers find several areas with tires and trees, but Ebron can be heard struggling, trying to find the exact spot.
"I came directly over that mound. I probably stayed on that flat ground. I remember I jumped over those downed logs,” he said. “See that tree sitting almost like a broom, with the roots almost up out of the ground. There's one just like that, but I went to the next one about 10 to 20 yards away from it, almost a straight line to it."
Police went door to door looking for neighbors who could give them any information on the changing landscape, particularly because a lot of dirt had been moved by construction equipment in the area.
“We noticed you have a bunch of fresh dirt. Are those guys pushing the dirt out pretty regular? How far has it been pushed out in the last couple of months?” one officer asks a neighbor. “Was this like this six months ago or has it been recently cleared?”
“Six months is a short time. It was right before the kids got out of their summer vacation,” the neighbor said.
“The company is trying to clear it to create a secondary lot because their location is downtown,” another neighbor said.
“We have a couple of officers and K-9s back there,” the officer explained.
“Really, did something happen to anyone in the area?” one neighbor asked.
“No ma'am. There's no suspect or anything,” the office said.
Eventually information from neighbors coupled with Ebron’s story gave police enough to direct them to Lonzie's remains.
They were found on a trash pile covered up by old tires. Police spent days searching the property for any additional evidence.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said that with the public deeply invested in the case, releasing the videos allows them to go along for the final moments of the investigation.
"Now that the case is closed, he's been sentenced, now it's public record," Smith said. "Just to give the public full exposure to see exactly what happened, where Ebron actually led detectives that night, just sort of puts a little bt more closure onto this case."
Ebron was also sentenced recently to five years in prison on drug charges in Baker County. That sentence will run after his Duval County sentence ends.
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