Former youth pastor Ronnie Hyde has been convicted of the 1994 murder of a 16-year-old boy and sentenced to life in prison. According to ChurchLeaders.com , Hyde still faces 25 charges of child pornography. The murder charge stems from a 1994 case where police discovered a dismembered body in
a dumpster behind a Florida gas station. The remains were not identified until 2016, when investigators matched the evidence to then-16-year-old Fred Laster’s DNA. Police also found Hyde’s DNA on a shirt near Laster’s remains.
“We never gave up hope,” Laster’s family said in a statement after the verdict. “This has been a long, emotional road, and we are grateful there is finally justice for Fred. We miss him dearly and miss the future we will never have with him.”
Laster was reported missing by his sister in February 1995, eight months after his dismembered body was found.
According to News 4 Jax, Laster was living with his grandmother at the time. He also played in a band and mentioned that he might be going on tour. But the family grew concerned after not hearing from him for so long.
Despite being reported missing, the case was stalled until 2015, when one of Laster’s cousins started looking into cold cases on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website and saw a poster from the Lake City “John Doe” case. The cousin showed the flier to Laster’s siblings, who recognized the photos on the flier and contacted investigators, News 4 Jax reports. Investigators then ran a DNA test to see if the remains were a familiar match to Lasters.
In 2017, police arrested Hyde after finding evidence linking him to the murder. According to police, Laster’s sister told police that Hyde had been the last person to see her brother alive. At one point, the 65-year-old also served as a foster parent for Laster and his sister and brother.
Laster’s sister also told police that once she woke up and saw Hyde nude and standing over Laster, trying to wake him up.
Police said Hyde had taken nursing classes and could have had some knowledge of how to dismember a body. Multiple knives were used on Laster, according to police, and authorities found knives similar to that near the body and in Hyde’s home.
Police also found child pornography at Hyde’s home. Hyde, meanwhile, told police that Laster had jumped out of his car on the night of his disappearance in 1994 because he did not want to go back to his grandma’s house. He also said he gave a shirt to Laster. Laster is survived by five siblings.