JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It's been one year since 21-month-old Lonzie Barton disappeared from Jacksonville, and the case is still fresh on the minds of local law enforcement.
Lonzie was reported missing on July 24, 2015. Months later, his mother's boyfriend, Ruben Ebron, said Lonzie was found dead in a bathtub and his body hidden in a vacant area in Bayard off U.S. 1.
The case lasted 172 days. Action News Jax reporter Bridgette Matter spoke Thursday with 13 people who were on the investigation team.
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Director Tom Hackney said he and the men and women who worked on the case carry it with them -- every day.
“Everyone in this room had a true emotional attachment to this case,” Hackney said. “At home, driving to and from work, lying in bed trying to fall asleep, you carried this case with you.”
“There was a point where we found out Ruben (Ebron) had done some work on the Southside. You get that moment of maybe this is it, and so there’s emotions attached to that,” said JSO Sgt. Dan Janson said.
Hackney said the case was unique in his experience as it was the largest search conducted. He said the agency was equipped to handle the search, and the case showed it.
The bodies of two missing people were found during the search for the toddler, allowing their remains to be returned to their families.
“Not one time, resource wise, were we ever tapped, to say, 'We can’t look in that,'" Hackney said. “Dive team was still out there in lakes looking on their training days when new information would come in or just because they cared that much to find that little boy.”
“It takes its toll, but that’s what we signed up to do,” Janson said.
The two charged in Lonzie's death, his mother Lonna Lauramore Barton and Ebron, are now in jail.
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“I think that (Ebron) has been untruthful,” Janson said. “He is narcissistic. The attention has to always be on him. (Ebron) says what he needs to say.”
Janson doesn't believe Ebron led officials to Lonzie's body to end the case ... but to satisfy himself.
"I think the whole ... let me take you to the body, was for him. It wasn't for us that was the attention back on him once more."
Ebron wrote Matter a letter saying he gave Lonzie CPR after he drowned in a bathtub.
When asked if Janson believes Ebron’s story, he said, “I don’t think anything that Ruben (Ebron) says is the truth. I think he has lied from day one. No, is the short answer. I think there is more to the story.”
Janson wouldn’t go into detail on what he believed happened to Lonzie.
“We do these cases, we do these investigations for a successful criminal prosecution and if there is a road or means better or faster than we are going to do that,” Hackney said.
Hackney said what happened to Lonzie could happen to other children.
“The circumstance that led to this boy’s death is not unique and this community," Hackney said. "[In] this area, there are hundreds of little boys and little girls who are in equal peril.”
Cox Media Group