91ºF

Tragic discovery mars peaceful area

Neighbor wants permanent memorial to honor Lonzie Barton

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A memorial to honor toddler Lonzie Barton can still be seen near the property where the 21-month-old's remains were found in January.

Ruben Ebron, the man convicted of aggravated manslaughter and child abuse in the boy's death, led police to the area hours before jury selection was scheduled to begin in his trial.

The final search, which can be seen on police videos released this week by the State Attorney's Office, ended a sixth-month quest to recover Lonzie's remains.

One neighbor, whose grandchildren used to play in the area where the boy was finally found, said what happened there keeps her up at night.

At first glance, the area seems quiet, even peaceful, but no matter how many wildflowers grow there the spot is a dark reminder of what investigators discovered on the property, Margie Bledsoe said.

"Where you think you're safe, where you should be safe, you're not,” she said. “Anything can happen anywhere to anybody."

Bledsoe lives part time in the neighborhood and watches her grandchildren during the day. She said it feels like Lonzie's case will never truly be over for her.

Bledsoe said she would love to see a permanent memorial for Lonzie near the place where he was found, so people can remember him in a positive way.

"It's something that you'll never, they'll never get over around here,” she said. “It'll always be in the back of your mind and your heart. You won't ever get over it."

She also thinks Ebron deserves a harsher punishment. He is currently serving 20 years in prison in Lonzie's death.

UNCUT EVIDENCE VIDEO:
Ebron leads detectives through woods | Detectives talk to Bayard residents

In police video, Ebron can be seen and heard leading detectives to the spot they'd been searching for for months.

The conversation between Ebron and the detectives was patient and cooperative. At one point the detective says that they aren't ready to stop searching, even though they'd been circling the area for more than an hour.

“OK, here's what we're going to do. We're going to make a command decision for right now,” the officer said. “Before the clearing, we're going to come down here in this clearing, see if we can bring in a car to bring this stuff down for a second, and then make another decision from here. … We can start from here again. We're just walking in the same water. Me and you both, we're having a heck of a time. I'm not going to quit on you, OK?

“I definitely don't want to,” Ebron replied.

"Let's step back a second, get our perspective again,” the officer said. “That way we're in a dry spot, and we don't have to do that again."

Eventually, investigators did find Lonzie's remains, discarded on a trash pile covered by old tires.

Bledsoe said the discovery brought some closure for those following the case since the toddler was reported missing last July. She said she has deep compassion for Barton's family and loved ones, and hopes that they can find peace.

“There is evil in this world,” she said. “But I believe there is a lot more good than evil. It was just evil that took him.”