JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A jury was empaneled Monday in the trial of Ronnie Hyde, the former youth pastor charged in the 1994 murder of 16-year-old Fred Laster, whose dismembered body was found abandoned in a Lake City dumpster.
Jury selection began at 9 a.m.
Hyde, 65, of Jacksonville Beach, was brought inside the courtroom, and the judge reiterated that the state is not seeking the death penalty. The judge also read out loud the list of witnesses the court could hear from, including deputies with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, FBI agents, Fred Laster’s brother Travis and another person with the last name Laster.
As of late Monday morning, attorneys were questioning potential jurors. They were looking at potential jurors’ exposure to media coverage. The court started with a group of about 50, and when asked by the judge if they had knowledge of the case due to media coverage, quite a few hands shot up, and attorneys worked to determine whether those men and women have already formed an opinion.
Laster’s dismembered remains were discovered in a dumpster outside Lake City but weren’t identified until 2016.
According to police, Hyde is believed to be one of the last people to see Laster alive. In 2016, according to investigators, blood on a flannel shirt found with Laster’s body matched Hyde. Journal entries, tristar knives, DNA evidence and bath appliques are expected to be presented as evidence in the trial.
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Hyde has also been charged with dozens of counts of child pornography. Those proceedings are being kept separate from the murder case.
This trial is expected to last a week, starting Monday and finishing Friday.
Opening statements will be presented Tuesday morning.