JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Lonna Lauramore Barton, 26, entered a courtroom Wednesday shackled and in an orange jumpsuit. The brief hearing was so she could formally plead guilty to all the charges against her following the disappearance of her toddler son.
She’s been in jail since August after being charged with child neglect and lying to police stemming from the night that her son Lonzie Barton disappeared on July 24.
“She pled straight to the judge for everything that she could be charged with,” said Rich Mantei, state prosecutor.
She’ll now go from co-defendant to witness in the case against Ruben Ebron, Lonzie's caregiver at the time he disappeared.
According to the plea document, as a condition of her plea she agreed to give truthful testimony if called by the state or defense.
“If she got on the stand and lied or didn't perform, according to this, then what could happen is that she would simply get five years,” said Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson.
Carson said this type of agreement isn’t uncommon.
“When you have two co-defendants, the effort of the state is always to get one co-defendant to testify against the other,” said Carson.
The state maintains there was no deal or negotiation. According to the state, no charges were ever dropped and no promises were made to Lauramore Barton on sentencing.
According to Mantei, judges occasionally ask for a recommendation on sentencing but he wouldn’t elaborate on whether he would make one, saying it would be premature to comment.
Barton’s attorney, Kevin Carlisle, described her as being frustrated and still grieving.
“She’s still grieving. I’d say it's very rough on her not knowing what happened to her son,” said Carlisle.
According to the plea document that Lauramore Barton signed, she understands that she may be sentenced to up to five years in prison if she fails to give truthful testimony on the stand.
Carson said the plea doesn’t guarantee she’ll testify.
“It's likely that she will but who would know about matters of the heart; she could elect not to testify to take the five years,” said Carson.
Carlisle also maintains she will take the stand. Action News Jax also pressed him on Lauramore Barton’s alleged pregnancy.
Ebron’s family members and multiple law enforcement sources told Action News Jax in November that Lauramore Barton was pregnant but her attorney denied those claims.
“I don’t know how the report got out there in the first place, she was never pregnant to my knowledge. She’s not pregnant right now,” said Carlisle.
Barton is expected to be deposed by the defense by Monday.