After a weeklong trial in Jacksonville, FL, former youth pastor Ronnie Hyde (65) was convicted in the case of the 1994 murder of 16-year-old Fred Laster on Friday and has been sentenced to life in prison. Deliberations for the jury took less than three hours. Hyde opted to receive sentencing immediately.
Hyde also faces 25 charges of child pornography, for which he will be tried later this year.
Disclaimer: some of the details of 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 was not identified as Laster’s remains until 2016 when investigators were able to match the contents of the dumpster with Laster’s DNA.
Jurors were shown video footage from 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 toward him as a suspect. At one point, Hyde had served as a foster parent for Laster, as well as his sister and brother. Police obtained a sample of Hyde’s DNA from his garbage and were able to connect it to a shirt that was found near Laster’s remains.
Upon obtaining a warrant and searching Hyde’s home, police discovered child pornography, which resulted in 25 charges for sex crimes in addition to being charged for Laster’s murder.
Laster’s sister had previously reported an incident wherein she awoke to find Hyde nude and standing over Laster, attempting to wake him. Police suspect that Hyde may have victimized other underaged people.
Further, Hyde had previously taken nursing classes, which would have given him anatomical knowledge that would prove useful 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 at the crime scene.