Authorities found human remains Monday that they believe are those of a Florida toddler who was reported missing last summer.
The remains were in a "garbage heap'' in a wooded area after the boyfriend of the child's mother led them to the site, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Chief of Investigations Tom Hackney said at a news conference.
The remains are believed to be those of Lonzie Barton, Hackney said.
Sheriff Mike Williams and State Attorney Angela Corey also attended the announcement, made in a church parking lot next to the area where the discovery was made. No cause of death has yet been determined and a medical examiner still has to positively identify the remains, Corey and Williams said.
Searchers found the remains shortly after midnight Sunday, just down the road from a neighborhood baseball field that is tucked amid small homes in the quiet Jacksonville neighborhood of Bayard. It was about 9 miles from the apartment where the boy was last seen alive.
"That little boy didn't need to be discarded like a piece of trash,'' Hackney said.
Lonzie was 21 months old in July when his mother's boyfriend reported him missing. Both the mother, Lonna Lauramore Barton, 26, and her boyfriend, 32-year-old William Ruben Ebron Jr., have been accused of child neglect.
Lauramore Barton pleaded guilty last week to child neglect and lying to police and agreed to testify against Ebron. The judge has not yet decided whether she can do so, however. Ebron's trial was supposed to start Monday morning, but was postponed when he waived his right to a speedy trial. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19. Corey says new charges are possible for both.
Ebron led authorities to the site, Williams said.
Ebron's attorneys and prosecutors declined to comment Monday. Lauramore Barton's attorneys also said they could not yet comment on the developments.
Last week, Lauramore Barton told the judge that Ebron had dealt drugs every day of their relationship. She acknowledged leaving Lonzie and his 5-year-old sister with Ebron while she worked as a dancer at a local bar.
According to court records, Ebron called police July 24, saying the boy had been strapped inside a car seat when he stepped back into his apartment to get something. While he was inside, Ebron said someone stole the car with the child inside.
Police found the car a short distance away, but there was no sign of the child. Investigators at the time said Ebron was lying about the abduction and car theft and that he likely knew the child's whereabouts.
Lauramore Barton's cousin, Sabra Rhue, arrived at the search site Monday to see if the remains were Lonzie's. She said she is not close to her cousin, but has been devastated by the toddler's disappearance.
"For six months I've been thinking of Lonzie,'' she said. "It's going to be a long process for me. Extremely hard.''