JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - For the second time in three months, the State Attorney's Office has filed notice with the court, saying it has evidence that accused killer Ronnie Hyde might have committed other crimes.
Hyde, 61, is accused of befriending runaway 16-year-old Fred Laster in 1994, killing him and cutting his body into pieces. Laster's torso was found outside a Lake City gas station dumpster, but the crime wasn't connected to Hyde, police said, until DNA evidence pulled from Hyde's property in 2016 was matched to the crime in March 2017.
Hyde's lawyer, Ann Finnell, has argued that someone else killed Laster and that the charges against her client should be dropped.
But the State Attorney's Office is instead indicating that charges could be added against Hyde by filing what's called a “notice of other crimes” in the case.
The notice, which is the second prosecutors have filed this year, says that from 1986 to 1991, Hyde lured teens to his home for sex.
It goes into detail, saying Hyde had an interest in juvenile males around the same age as Laste and used "grooming techniques" to entice them.
Two young men are expected to provide investigators with sworn statements about how Hyde intentionally touched them "in a lewd and lascivious manner," according to the court documents.
The first statement is planned for Friday, and the second victim is expected to make a statement at a later date.
In January, prosecutors said evidence pointed to multiple instances of child molestation of another unnamed teenage boy, described as being between the ages of 12 and 15, from 1992 to 1994.
Attorney Gene Nichols, who is not associated with the case, said prosecutors don't have to charge Hyde with more crimes to have others testify against him.
"These sort of allegations, if there are other past crimes or acts that are so similar to this one, they don’t necessarily have to charge, but they can bring them into their case to show that since they are so similar and that it was allegedly him, that it makes more sense it was him this time," Nichols said.
Finnell released a statement Thursday to News4Jax:
It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the filing of alleged similar fact evidence at this time. Needless to say, Mr. Hyde vehemently denies an inappropriate behavior of any kind toward anyone. ...
It is difficult for the defense to understand how anything involving any other person is relevant to our case, since there is no evidence of inappropriate behavior by Mr. Hyde toward the alleged victim. We intend to file appropriate motions attacking the admissibility of this alleged evidence. Perhaps the filing of those motions and the hearings on them will shed some light on the nature of these allegations.
After Hyde's arrest in March 2017, a young man came forward, telling the FBI he'd been a runaway in 1992 and that Hyde had started mentoring him. It's unclear whether he is the same man referenced in the January filing.
Hyde is also charged with 12 counts of possession of child pornography.
He will be back in court next month. His trial is set for December.
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