JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The medical examiner's report on the death of Lonzie Barton has been released by the state attorney's office, marking an end to the case of the toddler who disappeared 16 months ago.
The autopsy report obtained by News4Jax Tuesday -- nine months after the child's remains were found in woods off Interstate 295 in Jacksonville's Bayard area -- provides grim details, saying Lonzie's skeletal remains were collected in 11 brown paper bags.
Several of the bags contained wisps of blond hair belonging to the blue-eyed boy, according to the report by the medical examiner’s office.
When Ruben Ebron, the man who told police that his girlfriend's 21-month-old son was abducted when his car was stolen last summer, pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the death of the toddler, the state attorney's office acknowledged that there were old rib and skull fractures found on the remains.
The medical examiner's report notes "blunt trauma," including that Lonzie suffered eight blunt force rib fractures before his death and at least two skull fractures near the time of his death.
There were no drugs found in his system, according to the report dated Jan. 13.
The medical examiner was unable to pinpoint a cause or manner of death, which was a key factor in the eventual plea deal accepted by Ebron that has him serving 20 years in prison, along with concurrent sentences for child neglect, lying to police and tampering with evidence.
James Boyle, Ebron's attorney, was not shocked by the contents of the autopsy report, saying the results line up with the information his client told prosecutors and police after Lonzie's remains were recovered in January.
"If you remember at that time that Mr. Ebron was sentenced, the state attorney's office held out the possibility of additional charges if the findings were inconsistent with what he described to the police and to the prosecutors. There's nothing in here that contradicts anything that Mr. Ebron says, so I don't believe this would have any effect on Mr. Ebron's case," Boyle said.
Photo timeline: Lonzie Barton disappearance, investigation, prosecution
Boyle said the report also proves that Ebron was willing to cooperate with law enforcement by telling them what happened to the child before he was reported missing.
“Ruben did say when they received the child from Baker County earlier, the week that this incident occurred, the child came back to him with injuries. In fact, Mr. Ebron actually photographed some of Lonzie’s injuries and later told the homicide detective where to find them on his cellphone that was seized by the police,” Boyle said.
Previously released discovery materials indicated that a witness told police that Lonzie had bruising on his head and yellow fluid coming from his ears. The state said the photos of those injures -- dated two days before the boy was reported missing -- were recovered from Ebron's phone.
During Ebron's sentencing hearing, he said Lonzie died in a bathtub while he and Lonna Barton -- the toddler's mother -- were having sex, and that he panicked and hid his body in a trash pile off near Bayard. Barton received a 5-year sentence in connection with her son's disappearance.
The state attorney's office said it will have no comment on the release of Lonzie's autopsy report, noting the skull and rib fractures had been acknowledged months ago, and referring News4Jax to the statements made when Ebron's guilty plea was accepted Feb. 5.
On that day, State Attorney Angela Corey said because the medical examiner could not pinpoint a cause of death, "this plea was the right thing to do," and that "the disposition was the only way, the only way to bring him (Lonzie) home."
Rhonda Peoples-Waters, an attorney not affiliated with the case, said Ebron is not facing more serious charges, likely because the state could not pinpoint which specific injury may have caused his death.
"We know for sure, maybe based on Ebron's testimony, that he caused some of these injuries based on his own apparent admission, but he's also saying that other people caused some of the prior injuries and there's a witness who also saw the child with some of these injuries before they came back in contact with Ebron. So all of that contradictory evidence is why the state, I'm sure, made this plea deal," Peoples-Water said. "How long those fractures existed and could they have existed before Lonzie even came into the custody of Mr. Ebron? So I think those are questions the prosecution had already gone over that factored into the finalizing of their decision to enter the plea with Mr. Ebron."
Ruben Ebron Sr., Ebron's father, told News4Jax Wednesday that "the report is old news," saying his family knew Lonzie had previous injuries before coming in contact with his son.
He also said the family is "glad the case has come to a conclusion, but it doesn't take away the pain."
The Justice Coalition, a victims' advocate group that has provided support to the community and Lonzie's family, released the following statement on the release of the medical examiner's report:
"Learning more about the abuse Lonzie Barton endured during his short life by the people who should have protected him brings more sadness. Lonzie is in a better, safer place than he was on Earth."