Judge permits journal entries & other evidence in case of Ronnie Hyde, charged in 1994 murder

Hyde accused in murder of 16-year-old Fred Laster, of Yulee

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A motion hearing took place Friday in the case of Ronnie Hyde, who’s been indicted for the 1994 murder of 16-year-old Fred Laster.

In ‘94, police discovered the torso of a teenage boy next to a dumpster in Lake City. Investigators found physical evidence in the dumpster that was connected to the dead teenager, including a flannel shirt with blood on it.

Fred Laster, 16, of Yulee, was reported missing by his family in 1995, but it wasn’t until 2015 that DNA evidence identified Laster as the victim. Investigators started asking family and friends about Laster’s movements and came up with the name of Ronnie Hyde as the man who was last seen with Laster.

In 2016, the blood on the flannel shirt was matched to Hyde, who at the time was living in Jacksonville Beach. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office led the investigation, and with the help of the FBI, locked onto Hyde as the prime suspect.

The court Friday heard new motions of evidence that the state wants to present.

Some of the evidence is within a journal that prosecutors discovered, in which Hyde writes that he wants forgiveness from Travis and Laster. Travis was Laster’s brother. The defense wants those entries suppressed.

News4JAX spoke about the developments with attorney Randy Reep, who is not affiliated with the case.

“Journal entries are being made, reportedly by the defendant, and the state has a problem that they have to show that it was in fact made by the defendant,” Reep explained. “Once they demonstrate that these are the defendant’s words, then his statements can be used against him.”

The court also heard defense motions to throw out other evidence recovered from Hyde’s Jacksonville Beach home, like knives and bathroom appliques. The defense says there’s no evidence these knives are part of the same set.

The defense also says anyone could have a bath applique, saying they’re common.

However, the judge ruled it was evidence enough that there were similar items found where the body was dumped.

The motions to suppress the journal entries, the tristar knives and the bath appliques were all denied — and a motion was denied regarding the victim calling his siblings the day he was murdered saying he was with Hyde.

“These statements will be excluded because they are being offered for the truth of the matter asserted and not something that can be confronted or cross examined,” Reep explained.

In March 2017, Hyde’s house was raided and he was arrested and charged with murder.

Police also found child porn on Hyde’s phone, and he was eventually charged with dozens of counts of child porn possession.

The case has been bogged down in court for years. Hyde’s defense lawyer has aggressively attacked the evidence, and filed motions to throw out all the evidence, which led to months of hearings. The motions were all denied.

Hyde was indicted for first-degree murder in Feb. 2021. A final pretrial hearing will be next Friday. Jury selection will happen on that following Monday. The trial is expected to take more than a week.

About the Authors:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.