JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After months of searching, the family of Lonzie Barton may soon be able to lay his remains to rest.
Police believe they found the remains of the missing toddler in a garbage heap in a wooded area in Bayard. It could take weeks for the medical examiner's office to confirm that belief and release the remains to the family to be buried.
But when that happens, a Macclenny funeral director has already arranged to bury Lonzie, free of charge.
"As long as I've been in business, I've never charged for a child. Ever,” Todd Ferreira said. “This is no different."
Ferreira, the director of V. Todd Ferreira Funeral Services, said Lonzie's family and the community that searched for him deserve closure.
“It is heart-wrenching to see this happen,” he said. “As a person, I am around death all day long. All day, every day, 24 hours a day. But infants and children, when they pass away, either from a natural death or an unnatural death, it just touches me.”
Ferreira said he's there to serve Lonzie's family, giving them one less thing to worry about during a difficult and dramatic time.
“What is important to us is Lonzie and his family, and that's what we are committed to,” he said. “And to giving him a special goodbye. One that he deserves.”
Ferreira is working with Lonzie's family to plan the funeral and burial and said relatives from both sides are of Lonzie's family are involved in the process.
Ferreira said he believes that the funeral will be open to the community, so that all the people who poured their hearts and souls into searching for the toddler will get to pay their respects and honor him.
Ferreira said Lonzie will be buried in Macclenny, where many of his loved ones live, but that the funeral is likely weeks away.
Ebron visitation reinstated
As the wait continues for confirmation on whether the remains found Monday are Lonzie's, the man who led police to those remains can once again have visitors in jail, a judge ruled.
Judge Mark Borello ruled Monday, the same day police found the remains on the Southside, that Ruben Ebron can now have jail visits and calls with his parents and his children. Ebron's contact remains restricted with Lonna Barton, Lonzie's mother, who was Ebron's girlfriend when the 21-month-old disappeared last July.
Ebron's attorney, Al Perkins, was out Wednesday at the scene where the remains were found.
READ: Ebron's visitation order
Perkins said Ebron, who has long been the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office's prime suspect in Lonzie's disappearance, is happy that he is able to speak to his family again, particularly his children. His contact with them had been restricted earlier by a judge as he awaits trial on charges of child neglect, lying to police and tampering with evidence.
Ebron's mother, Wanda Ebron, said Ruben called her house for the first time Tuesday after the restrictions were lifted. He spoke with his father and his three children. She said Ruben's 11-month-old child and other family members will visit him on Monday.
Father grieves as investigation continues
At the wooded search area on the Southside, officers were seen arriving and heading into the wooded area in off-road vehicles and on foot Wednesday, as investigators continued their third day at the scene. Down the street, a makeshift memorial continued to grow with candles, balloons and stuffed animals left by members of the community.
Luci Criswell, who lives near where the investigation is continuing, said that in recent months, she has thought about Lonzie as she would drive past the wooded Bayard area on her way to work.
"He's just -- this makes me sick," Criswell said. "He popped into my head and every day I thought he could be out here somewhere. Isn't that crazy? Here we were looking everywhere else."
The attorney for Chris Barton, Lonzie's father, said that his client is still very upset after learning about what police found. The attorney said Barton, who is in the Baker County Jail on drug charges, first saw the reports on News4Jax on Monday afternoon.
Chris Barton's attorney, Wes Cassano, said that his client has had the chance to process the news for a couple of days now, but as of Tuesday afternoon was still in the medical wing of the jail.
“He has talked with, I believe, his father and a few other family members,” Cassano said. “He said they are coming together and very supportive in his hour of need. He greatly appreciates that, too.”
Cassano said it would take coordination from several agencies for Chris Barton to be able to attend his son's funeral.
He would not confirm if Chris Barton had tried to talk to Lonna Barton since the remains were found. She remains in jail after pleading guilty last week to child neglect and lying to police.
Community remembers Lonzie
A vigil is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at Julington Baptist Church, which is near where the remains were found on Snyder Street. The church is partnering with the Justice Coalition to hold the vigil and the public is invited.
The public is asked to arrive at 5 p.m. to sign a remembrance card for Lonzie.
Children from throughout the community will also be performing and will serve as ushers and greeters at the event. Chief Tom Hackney and members of his investigative team will be in attendance.
Everyone is asked to bring a long stem flower to build a bouquet in Lonzie’s honor. The bouquet will remain at Julington Baptist Church for Sunday morning services.
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