JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A caregiver for a missing Florida boy is now a suspect in the child’s disappearance, authorities said Saturday.
William Ruben Ebron, 32, initially told investigators that he had left 21-month-old Lonzie Barton of Jacksonville in a car early Friday outside an apartment building where they lived with the boy’s mother, and the car was stolen with the boy still in it when he went back inside.
The car Ebron reported stolen was found with its keys inside shortly after a 911 call alerted authorities to Lonzie’s disappearance. Detectives and K-9 units continued searching the area for the boy Saturday.
“The facts that have come together have led William Ebron to being a suspect,” the Jax Sheriff’s Office tweeted Saturday.Ebron has stopped cooperating with investigators, who now believe he lied about Lonzie’s disappearance, Tom Hackney, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office chief of detectives, told reporters Saturday.
“Without a doubt, the report that he gave, that his car was taken by some unknown suspect and left by some unknown suspect is a lie and is not true,” Hackney said.
Ebron was in the apartment building doing cocaine at the time he reported Lonzie abducted, according to Hackney.
“He’s where our attention is going to be focused,” Hackney said.
Ebron was arrested late Friday and charged with two counts of child neglect in a different case. Duval County jail records didn’t show whether he had an attorney.
CBS affiliate WJAX reports Hackney said Ebron has a lengthy criminal record that includes drug and domestic violence charges.
An Amber Alert was issued Friday for Lonzie, who weighs about 20 pounds and has blue eyes and blond hair.
“We’re still going to work this as a child abduction because, honestly, I don’t know what happened to Lonzie,” Hackney said. “I can’t say at this point and time whether Lonzie is alive or dead.”
Hackney said that approximately 150 detectives, patrol officers and other resources from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, and the Jacksonville branch of the FBI have all assisted in the search for Lonzie.
Police searched a wooded area, bodies of water and a mobile home park on Saturday near Philips Highway and I-295. Hackney said law enforcement would continue to search that area Sunday.
Lonzie’s father, who lives in nearby Baker County, and his mother are cooperating with police and investigators don’t believe either had anything to do with Lonzie’s disappearance, Hackney said.
The sheriff said during a news conference Saturday evening that there is still some hope that Lonzie may be found alive.
However, he said, “as time progresses that hope fades.”
Anyone with information on Lonzie’s whereabouts is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.