JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Nearly a month after 21-month-old Lonzie Barton went missing, his mother, Lonna Lauramore Barton, has been arrested, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office announced late Tuesday night.
Lauramore is charged with one count of child neglect and one count of giving false information to law enforcement after lying to investigators and allowing “unsecured” drugs in the presence of her children, Chief of Investigations Tom Hackney said. Hackney told reporters that Lauramore had initially lied to investigators about knowing William “Ruben” Ebron, 32, the night of Lonzie’s disappearance.
“There’s been a pattern of deception and lies,” the chief said. The charges are not directly related to the toddler’s disappearance.
On July 23, the day before Lonzie was reported missing, Lauramore was told about a bruise on the back of his head and confronted Ebron about it, said Hackney. “Lonzie had yellow fluid coming from his ears, he was lethargic and vomiting,” he added. Nonetheless, Hackney said, she left Lonzie and his 5-year-old sister in the care, custody and control of Ebron and left to go to work at Wacko’s, an adult entertainment venue.
Ebron, who kept drugs at the apartment Lauramore shared with her children, would routinely take Lauramore with him on drug deals, Chief Hackney told reporters. “She found it in the best interest of Lonzie to have him in the car” too, he said.
Lauramore has had phone contact with Ebron since Lonzie’s disappearance, according to police. Last Friday, she gave an exclusive interview to First Coast News, the NBC affiliate in Jacksonville, saying she believed her son was still alive. That’s after investigators announced the child had been murdered, not abducted, as Ebron had told police on July 24 when he reported him missing. Surveillance video obtained from a neighbor’s home discredited that narrative, police said.
Ebron pleaded not guilty to two counts of child neglect and one count of giving false information to investigators — in connection to the case.
Large-scale search efforts by authorities to find Lonzie wound down after Sunday, Aug. 2, ten days after he was originally reported missing by Ebron. On Monday, the toddler was added to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s list of unsolved Amber Alerts alongside 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings.
Hackney has even asked Ebron himself to come forward with the location of Lonzie’s body. Ebron told police that he’d left Lonzie and the toddler’s 5-year-old sister in his car with it running at an apartment complex, while he went inside without them. The 5-year-old, he said, came inside because she said she was scared, and when he returned outside, Ebron reportedly said that the car was driving away.
About 20 minutes later, police had located the orange 1995 Honda Civic just four blocks away. Lonzie was not in the car or the immediate vicinity.
Video was obtained from home surveillance video from a home a few houses away from where police located the Civic. In the video, Lonzie is not seen. Police said it appears Ebron was alone.
Police have been searching for Lonzie for over a week, and countless man hours have gone into locating Lonzie. “I want the child’s body,” Hackney said. “I want the child’s body to be taken back to his family to be put to rest properly.”
Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida is offering a reward of $13,200 as of Aug. 3 for anyone with information that leads authorities to Lonzie. The reward was increased by community and anonymous donations.