Police believe they may have found the remains of a missing Florida toddler in a “garbage heap,” authorities announced Monday.
Lonzie Barton was reported missing in July in Jacksonville, Florida, after his mother’s boyfriend, William Ruben Ebron, 32, claimed he was inside his car when it was stolen, according to First Coast News.
Authorities issued an Amber Alert and initiated a massive search for the 21-month-old boy. However, surveillance video later allegedly discredited Ebron’s story and authorities charged him with child neglect and giving false information, the Florida Times-Union reports.
Chief of Investigations Tom Hackney said on Monday that Ebron had begun cooperating with authorities and led them to a “wooded area” that was “basically a garbage heap” near Jacksonville’s Philips Highway. The remains were “covered” but not buried, Hackney told WJXT-TV.
“If we weren’t really sure, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you today,” Sheriff Mike Williams said of identifying the remains as Lonzie. “We feel strongly that it’s him.”
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Lonna Barton, Lonzie’s mother, pleaded to child neglect and lying to police in early January, reported Jacksonville’s WOKV. The child neglect charges are in relation to injuries the boy suffered before his disappearance, which included being bruised, acting lethargic and vomiting, according to WOKV. Barton told authorities she left for work on July 24 knowing the child was ill. Both Barton and Ebron had a history with drugs, according to WJXT.
As part of her plea, Barton must testify at Ebron’s trial.
The Sheriff’s Office did not provide information on the condition of the boy’s remains and the cause of death: “The lack of my specificity has been because I don’t want to jeopardize the judicial process of this case,” Hackney explained.
“That little boy didn’t need to be discarded like a piece of trash,” Hackney said, “and today we are able to take what we believe to be him from being disposed just like that, in the hopes that he can spend his eternity in somewhere that’s peaceful, and not somewhere that’s basically a garbage heap.”
He added, “this case isn’t over.”
State Attorney Angela Corey said on Monday that the medical examiner is helping with the case and that there would be “more answers in the coming weeks.”
Corey added that her office is focusing on establishing a timeline of events and will try to prove when Lonzie was injured and who was in charge of his care at the time.