Ronnie Hyde, charged in 1994 with the murder of a teenager, appears in court

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – In a trial due to conclude Friday, the prosecution closed its case Thursday afternoon against the former youth pastor accused of killing and dismembering a 16-year-old boy in 1994.

Ronnie Hyde is charged with murder in the death of Fred Laster. Prosecutors are not asking for the death penalty.

Before resting Thursday, prosecutors released the video of the interrogation between Hyde and the FBI special agent who arrested him. In the video, Hyde tells the detective the last time he said he saw Laster.

“When he called and I came to pick him up, it was evening. He spent the night and the next day it was the yard sale and I tried to drive him home and he jumped out of the car,” Hyde explains in the video.

Hyde also said Laster jumped out of his car while being questioned in court on Thursday. He said after the 1994 incident that he went home and saw a family member, Travis – Laster’s brother – the next morning, and he said he told Travis what happened .

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The yard sale mentioned in the video was also discussed, with Hyde saying Laster was supposed to help him out.

Defense lawyer: “Did you get up early in the morning of the 4th (June)?”

Hyde: “Oh, yes.”

Defense lawyer: “What car are we packing to transport this material to the neighborhood garage sale?”

Hyde: (inaudible)

Defense attorney: “Did you expect Fred to come and help you?”

Hyde: “Oh yeah.”

Defense attorney: “Did you discuss it with him?” He was supposed to come.

Hyde: “Yeah.”

Defense lawyer: “Did he come? »

Hyde: “No.”

The defense attorney questioned Hyde for over an hour, and before telling the judge she had no more questions, she asked:

Defense attorney: “Mr. Hyde, did you kill Fred Laster?

Hyde: “No ma’am. I do not have.”

Defense attorney: “Do you know anything other than what you told us about Fred Laster’s death?”

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Hyde: “No.”

Defense attorney: “Have you ever hurt that child?”

Hyde “Oh no. I never hurt that kid.

Hyde’s cousin took the floor where she read some of his diary entries to the jury.

“I feel depressed, lonely, struggling to stay alive. The people I thought of for forgiveness, in a circle, Joey, Christian, Travis and Fred. Katrina for yelling at her,” read the cousin.

Earlier in the week, prosecutors presented key evidence through grim testimony that they say points to the former pastor and youth counselor’s guilt.

Jurors were shown crime scene footage and a glimpse of physical evidence, including knives, a black plastic bag, a bloody bed cushion, a red flannel shirt, orange gloves with Laster’s DNA and sticks typically used at the bottom of a bathtub. Prosecutors say the red shirt’s DNA matched Hyde.

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The state also showed photos of gruesome evidence from June 5, 1994, the day Laster’s upper body was found behind a dumpster at a BP gas station. Brian Retz was a detective with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office at the time.

“The head had been cut off, the hands had been cut off, both legs had been cut off, so it was just the torso of the body,” Retz said.

Laster’s family said Hyde picked up Laster the same week and they never saw him again.

A witness said he saw a sports car similar to Hyde’s leaning against the dumpster where Laster’s remains were found.

Jurors also heard Tuesday that Hyde had been Laster’s adoptive father and even declared him on his taxes.

On cross-examination, the defense said that was not enough to prove Hyde’s guilt.

A witness said the knives found at the crime scene were widely sold at the time Laster was killed and the gloves were soiled.

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“So many places Tristar knives have been sold,” Calvin Finner said.

He also testified that the fingerprint examiner used a dirty fingerprint brush to try to remove the fingerprints from the gloves.

Another witness, forensic anthropologist Heather Walsh-Hayney, said Laster’s body was cut with more than one knife.

“There were 25 force trauma impacts with a total of 71 cut marks,” she said.

It has not been confirmed that these knives belonged to Hyde.

It was also revealed that detectives had considered several serial killers, but none were linked to this crime. The defense said anyone could have killed Laster.

The jurors also had the chance to learn more about Laster.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Alan Mizrahi said Laster – affectionately known as Freddy – was a young man trying to find his mark in the world. He said Laster played in a heavy metal band, loved music, and enjoyed hunting. He also had a twin sister.

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RELATED: New photos of evidence released in Ronnie Hyde case | Judge allows diary entries and other evidence in case of Ronnie Hyde, charged with 1994 murder | Jury selection begins in trial of youth pastor accused of killing and dismembering teen

Court began on Monday with a group of about 50 potential jurors, and when the judge asked if they knew about the case due to media coverage, several hands went up and the lawyers worked to determine if these men and women had ever formed an opinion. At the end of the day, a jury was constituted.

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Hyde was also charged with dozens of counts of child pornography. These proceedings are separate from the murder case.

This trial is expected to last a week, beginning Monday and ending Friday.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax – All Rights Reserved.


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