Ex-youth pastor convicted and sentenced to life in 1994 murder of 16-year-old boy
After a week-long trial in Jacksonville, Florida, former youth pastor Ronnie Hyde (65) was found guilty on Friday in the case of the 1994 murder of 16-year-old Fred Laster and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Jury deliberations lasted less than three hours. Hyde elected to receive sentencing immediately.
Hyde also faces 25 charges of child pornography, for which he will stand trial later this year.
Disclaimer: Some details in this story are graphic and disturbing. Discretion advised.
While Laster’s dismembered torso was found in the dumpster behind a Florida gas station in 1994, it wasn’t identified as Laster’s remains until 2016, when investigators were able to match the contents from the dumpster with Laster’s DNA.
Jurors were shown video footage of the grisly crime scene, as well as the physical evidence discovered by police near Laster’s remains.
After Laster’s sister told police that Hyde was the last person to see Laster alive, investigators turned their attention to him as a suspect. At one point, Hyde had served as an adoptive parent for Laster, along with his sister and brother. Police obtained a sample of Hyde’s DNA from their trash and were able to connect it to a shirt found near Laster’s remains.
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After obtaining a warrant and searching Hyde’s home, police discovered child pornography, which resulted in 25 charges of sex crimes in addition to being charged with Laster’s murder.
Laster’s sister previously reported an incident in which she awoke to find Hyde naked and standing over Laster, trying to wake him. Police suspect Hyde of assaulting other minors.
Additionally, Hyde had already taken nursing classes, which would have given him anatomical knowledge that would come in handy when attempting to dismember a body. Forensic anthropologist Heather Walsh-Hayney testified that multiple knives were used to dismember Laster’s body, and knives similar to those found near Laster’s remains were found in Hyde’s home. Police also recovered a mattress topper similar to the bloodied mattress topper from the crime scene.
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