JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The I-TEAM learned the church where Ronnie Hyde was a youth pastor when he met Fred Laster -- the 16-year-old he is now accused of killing in 1994 -- in the late 1980s has been the subject of investigation before by Jacksonville police and Channel 4 reporter.
Dr. Ed Stalnecker, pastor at the Strength for Living Church in Oceanway decades ago, was known beyond his congregation. He and his wife, Betty Jean, hosted a local Sunday afternoon cable talk show: "Do you believe?"
Stalnecker was known as an unconventional Baptist preacher. He drank and smoked, and even allowed smoking in church.
The Stalneckers told the community their mission was to help low-income children by teaching them how to use and fix boats. He even ran ads for his maritime ministries in Boat Trader magazine to encourage people to give their boats to his church.
Donors could receive a tax write-off and Stainecker's River City Sea Scout program would get the boat to help children But former followers later said the Sea Scouts were a sham.
"To be honest, I felt he was a crook. I didn't trust him. They screamed Fred and Tammy Faye Baker," a former church member told WJXT in 1993.
Former church members said Stalnecker ripped them off, too. One man said Stalnecker took one man for $13,0000.
Stalnecker was accused of ripping off retirees from Miami, taking $300,000 to build the Strength for Living Church, but never paying them back.
Prior to coming to Jacksonville, the I-TEAM found the Stalneckers hosted musical revivals across the country,
and it was the music scene at the church that attracted the Laster family.
We've learned from Freddy Lasters' family that Ronnie Hyde would pick them up from their home in Yulee and bring them for weekends. A family member said Hyde liked to play in the church band and sometimes lived in the band's bus the church renovated and kept parked on the property.
Two years after WJXT's investigation, Stalnecker was arrested on a Duval County forgery charge. That was in 1995, the same year Fred Laster was reporting missing to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and one year after police believe Hyde killed and dismembered the the teenager.
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