Lonna Barton sentenced to 5 years

Mother of toddler Lonzie Barton pleaded guilty to child neglect, lying to police

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Lonna Barton, the mother of the toddler whose remains were found in Bayard in January, was sentenced Friday to five years in prison on charges related to her son Lonzie's disappearance.

Barton, 26, who pleaded guilty in January to charges of child neglect and giving false information to a law enforcement officer, was sentenced to five years for the child neglect, a third-degree felony, and another year for lying to police, a misdemeanor. The sentences will run concurrently.

Barton's attorney, Kevin Carlisle, had asked Judge Mark Borello for one year in Duval County Jail with credit for time served. Barton was granted 169 days' credit for time served.

Prosecutor Rich Mantei said Barton has the right to file an appeal in 30 days.

"There is no way that you could say any term of years is ever justice for the death of a helpless child," Mantei said. "Justice would be Lonzie still with us."

During the sentencing hearing, Barton's attorney said that she made up a pregnancy story while she was in jail, hoping that Ruben Ebron finding out would lead to him saying where Lonzie's body was.

There were rumors that Barton was pregnant, but lawyers later said that was never the case.

Ebron, Barton's boyfriend at the time of Lonzie's disappearance in July, pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the boy's death in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence. In his plea agreement, Ebron, 32, confessed that the boy drowned in a bathtub after he and Barton locked him in a room while they had sex.

Barton's lawyer, Kevin Carlisle, had previously said that Barton left Lonzie -- who was 21 months old at the time -- with Ebron and went to her job as an exotic dancer the night the boy disappeared. Police said that Ebron claimed that night that his car was stolen with the boy inside.

"Lonna is no innocent person," Ebron's mother, Wanda Ebron, said after Friday's sentencing. "She knew the baby was dead when she went to work. ... If you have to ask me if that was a fair sentence, you already know."

Ruben Ebron long maintained that he had nothing to do with the toddler's disappearance, but days after Barton entered her guilty plea and then testified against Ebron in a preliminary hearing, Ebron led police to a wooded area of Bayard where a child's remains were found.

When the Medical Examiner's Office confirmed the remains were Lonzie's, prosecutors and Borello accepted Ebron's plea agreement.

DOCUMENT: Lonna Barton's guilty plea

"It's not equal. I think she knows more. I think she saw more," Ebron's father, William Ebron Sr., said Friday. "I'm just disgusted. I've been disgusted from the beginning."

Barton's neglect charges stem from before Lonzie disappeared. Prosecutors claim that Barton and Ruben Ebron didn't take proper care of the boy, didn't get him medical treatment when he was sick and exposed him to lifestyles involving drugs and other illegal activities. 

Mantei said Friday that to demonize Ruben Ebron alone understates the point that if not for Barton's choices, Lonzie would never have been around Ebron. He also discussed pictures found on Ebron's phone that showed Lonzie with multiple injuries, including head injuries.

"What happened to Lonzie is very sad. It's a pill I cannot swallow," Wanda Ebron said.

State Attorney Angela Corey has worked closely on the case from the beginning.

“Baby deaths, as hard as they are to handle, they are difficult cases and it all hinges on the evidence. We did not have much evidence on Lonna Barton; therefore, she’s only looking at a maximum of five years,” Corey said Thusday night before the sentencing. “People can’t compare one baby death to another. Sometimes if the proof is overwhelming, we can get a life sentence for first-degree murder, and sometimes like in poor little Lonzie’s case, the proof just isn’t there, and we do the best we can.”

Barton is also facing drug charges in Baker County. There are pre-trial hearings coming up next month in that case, and her trial is expected to get underway in April. 

Barton and her husband, Chris Barton, were arrested Sept. 16 after an undercover drug deal at a Baker County motel.

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