JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Attorneys for a man accused of killing and mutilating a 16-year-old Nassau County boy want to keep a jury from hearing statements their client gave at the time of his arrest.
Former youth pastor Ronnie Hyde is charged with second-degree murder in the 1994 slaying of Fred Laster, whose dismembered remains were dumped behind a gas station off Interstate 10 in Lake City. Hyde, 63, who’s been in custody at the Duval County jail since his arrest two years ago, has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and 25 additional counts of child pornography possession.
One of the motions to suppress centers on exchanges their client had with the FBI midway through the March 7, 2017, interview while Hyde was waiting for a lawyer to show up. The motion contends his comments "should be inadmissible because his request for counsel was not honored, and the tactics utilized were designed to impair his freedom of will."
In a separate motion, Hyde’s attorneys asked a judge to throw out the physical evidence investigators collected during a search of his Jacksonville Beach home and car, citing a lack of probable cause. That evidence came up during Hyde’s first interrogation as police confronted him with their findings, namely that they found his DNA and household items in the same place Laster’s body was found.
Interrogation video obtained by News4Jax showed a detective grilling Hyde, trying to get him to explain what they’d found. Hyde, who could be seen sitting calmly through the questioning, insisted the last time he saw Laster was in 1994 when the teen got out of his car as Hyde was driving him home. He said Laster didn’t want to go home.
Detective: “The last time you saw Fred was when you were pushing his body into a dumpster and it fell down and you dragged it behind the dumpster. So that’s what I’m telling you. All the evidence points at you, you understand that?”
Hyde: “There’s evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy, but that don’t make it true.”
Detective: “We’re not talking about the JFK assassination. We’re walking about you putting a 16-year-old boy in a dumpster.”
Hyde: “No, sir. It wasn’t me."
Among the pieces of physical evidence key to the state’s case is a flannel shirt with traces of blood that was found at the dumpster. Investigators said the blood matched a DNA sample collected from Hyde. They also found a blood-stained egg crate mattress, two Ginsu knives they believe were used to dismember Laster’s body, plastic gloves and other household items.
The statements at the heart of the issue were made a little more than two hours after investigators began questioning Hyde. They came as the FBI was trying to persuade him to take a lie-detector test.
Hyde: “It’s quite shocking. I’m a trained therapist – we usually don’t reveal our feelings.”
FBI: “Yes, sir. I understand.”
Hyde: “I’m really shocked to hear that. I didn’t know that at all.”
FBI: “I’m going to have to disagree with that because of what the evidence tells us."
Hyde: “Then perhaps I should consult with an attorney to protect my rights.”
The FBI agent left the room. Hyde kept talking when she returned, despite the agent’s reservations since he had already asked for a lawyer. He said he had nothing to do with Laster’s death, but he could not explain his DNA being found near the body.
Hyde: “He was in my presence. I don’t deny that at all. How it got into a dumpster, I have no idea. And items from my house, that’s a mystery. I don’t know; I mean, I have no clue. I’m as mystified about it as anyone else. And that’s why I said, it looks kind of bad.”
Circuit Judge Angela Cox could make a ruling on those motions as soon as June 11. A hearing has been scheduled for that purpose, though the hearing has been repeatedly postponed in recent months.