Caregiver named suspect in toddler's abduction

Boyfriend of Lonzie Barton's mother charged with 2 counts of child neglect

By Ashley Harding - Reporter, Chris Parenteau - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The man who police say lied about a car theft and the abduction of his girlfriend's toddler and who is charged with child neglect is now considered a suspect the disappearance of the boy.

A massive search for 21-month-old Lonzie Barton who disappeared sometime between 8 p.m. Thursday and 2:20 a.m. Friday, continues, with the focus shifting Saturday to an area near Phillips Highway and Interstate 295.

"There is still some hope that we can find little Lonzie alive; although, over time, that hope fades," Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Chief of Detectives Tom Hackney said Saturday night.

Hackney said it is especially frustrating because the man in custody, William Ebron Jr., knows what happened and likely knows where Lonzie is, but he won't tell police. 

"We are not working this as a stranger abduction anymore. We're still listing it as an Amber Alert, still working it as a child abduction with a missing person," Hackney said.

Hackney said that over 50 tips have come in, and some leading police and a dive team Saturday to search woods and bodies of water north of Bayard, an area where the boyfriend used to live.

At 10:45 a.m. police say the search for Lonzie Barton is  widening. After receiving a tip, divers search a lake along Shops Lane, near the Walmart across from the Avenues Mall.

Detectives also took Ebron to some of the search areas to see if he would provide any new information, but he did not.

"Ebron is lying to us," Hackney said of the original story that Lonzie as taken when Ebron's car was stolen when he briefly back inside to get something. "He went back to the apartment to do cocaine. That turns him into part of a monster, to do that."

Saturday afternoon, Ebron appeared on the charges and a Duval County judge set bond at $50,000 for each count. If released, Ebron is to have no contact with anyone under the age of 18, Lonzie's mother or any of the victim's family, and must wear a drug patch and not consume any alcohol or take any drugs, and wear a GPS monitoring bracelet. Ebron's next court date is Aug. 17.

"We're still going to work this as a child abduction, because, honestly, I don't know what happened to Lonzie," Hackney said, saying the Amber Alert for the boy will remain in place. "I don't know if Lonzie is alive or dead."

UNCUT: Saturday evening brifingSaturday morning briefing

Dozens of detectives returned to the search area along Old Kings Road again Saturday, joined by dive and K-9 teams and other specialty units of the Sheriff's Office. 

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI and other law enforcement areas are also helping search for the child.

Ebron told police the boy was in his running car outside a unit at the Ravenwood apartment complex on South Old Kings Road at 2:21 a.m. Friday as Ebron was getting ready to pick up Lonzie's mother, 25-year-old Lonna Lauramore Barton, from her job at Wacko's Gentlemen's Club.

Ebron said he put Lonzie and his 5-year-old sister into his orange 1995 Honda Civic while he went back inside to get something. He said when he came back out, the car was pulling away.

PRINTABLE: Lonzie Barton Amber Alert flyer |
PHOTOS: Timeline of toddler's abduction 

Police were able to locate the car within 20 minutes about four blocks away with the keys still in the car, but Lonzie was not inside. 

At one point during interrogation by police on Friday, Ebron admitted he went back into the apartment to do cocaine.

Lonzie has blonde hair, blue eyes, weighs 20 pounds and is about 2.5 feet tall. He was wearing only a diaper when he was last seen.

Hackney said police are if someone has Lonzie to drop him off in a safe, public place. He also asked residents in the area to search their property in case the boy either walked or was placed somewhere in the area.

Police said Lonzie's mother and father, who lives in Baker County, are cooperating with the investigation, but getting information from Ebron was "like pulling teeth."

Ebron has had run-ins with law enforcement before. Jacksonville Sheriff's Office records indicate at least half a dozen arrests for Ebron from 2007 to 2012.

A manager at Wacko's confirmed that Lonnie Barton was working Thursday night and her shift ended at 2:30 a.m. The manager said Barton is from Macclenny and has been a dancer at the club for about three months.

Lonzie's mother told police that she last saw her son around 8 p.m. Thursday night at a laundromat on Powers Avenue, about 1.5 miles from the apartment complex.

Police spent much of Friday afternoon at the business, including searching a dumpster behind the building.

JSO air units, police bloodhounds, K-9 units, FBI detectives and other law enforcement are helping with a grid search around the apartment complex where Lonzie lived and the neighborhood where the car was found.

Hackney said they have conducted reverse 911 calls to ask everyone in the area to be on the lookout for Lonzie and said citizens have volunteered to help in the search.

On Friday, police were seen searching several scenes on the Southside in heat that reached 100 degrees in the shade in a parked car. They were investigating the scene where the car was found in the 8100 block of Cesperdes Avenue. They also searched the apartment complex on South Old Kings Road, including a dumpster on the property. A dive team also came out, searching the swimming pool at the apartment complex and nearby drainage ditches.

JSO officers stood near the entrance and exit of the apartment complex asking residents if they could check their cars for the child. 

Police are trying to figure out where Ebron was all of Thursday night to see if that helps them find Lonzie.

One woman came to the area with her daughter trying to help with the search, but police said they're not asking civilians to help with the search yet.


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