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Judge mulls tossing evidence against man accused of killing teen in 1994

Ronnie Hyde's lawyers seeking to have all evidence thrown out

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man accused of killing and dismembering a 16-year-old boy was back in court Thursday afternoon for the resumption of a hearing on his attorneys' request to throw out virtually all evidence in the murder case against him.

At the Duval County Courthouse, Ronnie Hyde's attorneys once again asked for all the evidence that the State Attorney's Office has against the former church counselor to be dismissed. After hearing defense attorneys and prosecutors argue their cases, Judge Angela Cox decided not to make a ruling Thursday. 

Hyde, now 62, was arrested in 2017 after investigators searched his Jacksonville Beach home. He is charged with the murder of 16-year-old Fred Laster, whose torso was found in a dumpster behind a Lake City gas station in 1994.

Hyde is also facing 25 counts of possession of child pornography.

Hyde has been in court dozens of times. He maintains he’s innocent. During Thursday's hourslong court hearing, his attorneys asked the judge to drop all evidence from the case. 

His defense team argues his statements to the FBI and the evidence recovered from his house and car should be thrown out. The defense claims the 2017 arrest warrant for Hyde failed to establish probable cause -- essentially, enough reason to charge Hyde with a crime. Defense attorneys said there's no evidence to point directly to Hyde being the killer. 

"This case, the state relies on the fact that the condition of the torso makes it reasonable to believe that the murder was committed elsewhere. But there is nothing to suggest that elsewhere was Mr. Hyde’s home," said defense attorney BeJae Shelton.

But prosecutors said this was a heinous and gruesome murder, and their evidence is solid. 

"The state believes that a reasonable common sense inference from those facts is that the murder happened someplace other than the gas station where the torso was dumped," said prosecutor Mac Heavener III.

Heavener said DNA evidence from a flannel shirt in that dumpster matches with Hyde’s.

Twenty-three years later, when authorities raided Hyde's Jacksonville Beach home, they said that they found he bought 23 DVDs of child pornography for a total of $745. 

Both sides agree that Fred Laster and his siblings lived with Hyde off and on. They had a difficult family life. The agree Laster was last seen with Hyde. But only the state claims Hyde killed the teen, telling the judge the motive: Laster was about to tell people that Hyde molested him.

The judge is reviewing the arguments from both sides. She did not make a decision Thursday, saying she will through a written order once she's made up her mind. 

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.