People reveal 'strange' encounters with 1994 murder suspect

Shelby Farah's mother says Ronnie Hyde offered to counsel her teen son

By Francesca Amiker - Reporter, Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Since the arrest in the death and dismemberment of a Nassau County teenage boy, several people have come forward, revealing their past encounters with the Ronnie Hyde.

Hyde, 60, was arrested Tuesday in Jacksonville Beach on a murder charge in the death of 16-year-old Fred Laster, who investigators believe Hyde befriended while a youth pastor in the 1980s.

The FBI has asked for anyone who might have had any suspicious or inappropriate contact with Hyde over the years to call 904-348-7000. 

The mother of Shelby Farah, a Metro PCS worker murdered during a robbery in 2013, told News4Jax on Wednesday that she has already notified the FBI that she had been contacted by Hyde. 

Shelby's killer was sentenced to life without parole last week, but her mother, Darlene Farah, said the wound that was closing has since been reopened by Hyde's arrest. 

When her 20-year-old daughter was killed four years ago, Farah said that a detective asked her to set up a Facebook page to gather leads in the case. 

"A detective told me to accept every friend request, so I just accepted every friend request," Farah said. 

Farah said she would receive messages from people offering their help -- from legal services to counseling.

But it wasn't until Tuesday when News4Jax reporter Heather Leigh reached out to her that Farah realized she was not only Facebook friends with Hyde, but had been contacted by him.

Darlene Farah

Farah said Hyde sent her Facebook messages, offering free counseling to her and her children. 

"I didn't respond back to them," Farah said. "I thought that was kind of strange."

But she said what was even more strange and alarming is that at the time Hyde sent the messages, her son was 16 years old -- the same age as Fred Laster when he disappeared. 

"He kept saying, 'I could help your son,'" Farah said. "That was the last time I heard from him."

Now, Farah said, she is making it a point of telling other families of homicide victims to be aware of anyone offering services as she reflects on what she fears could have happened if she let Hyde counsel her children. 

"My stomach is sick. I'm, like, really nauseated. It just made me sick," she said. "You just don't know when people reach out to you like that. You can't trust anybody, and I hope this is a lesson learned to other people when people reach out to them like this. Because now I sit there and I look back and I can't help but think that he was trying to target my son."

Farah said she offered to turn the messages over to the FBI if it wants them. 

Man who met Hyde in 1989: 'His intentions were to prey on young guys'

News4Jax also spoke with a man who was 17 years old when he was transferred from a foster home to a Jacksonville youth shelter, where he first met Hyde in 1989. 

"He came across as very friendly and sociable, so I never thought anything outside of that. He was basically the boss at a boy's home," said the man, who News4Jax has chosen not to identify for his own protection. 

When he turned 18 and was facing the prospect of being homeless, the man said Hyde invited him to live in his home. 

The man said he lived with Hyde for one week and that Hyde initiated a sexual relationship with him. 

Ronnie Hyde

"It caught me off guard because he said, 'You can come sleep in my bed.' And I was, like, 'OK.' So the next thing I knew, it went from laying in the bed and undressing to, you know, sexual encounter," he said. 

Looking back, the man said, he wonders why he was selected by Hyde.

"I thought to myself and asked, 'Was he watching me the whole time I was at the center?'"

The FBI said that as a counselor, Hyde likely had "extensive access" to other children over the years. Though Hyde has a history of working with young boys, News4Jax asked the man if he thought Hyde actually mentored any. 

"I don't think that was his intentions at all. I think his intentions were to prey on young guys. It was never about mentoring, because he never did that with me," he said.

News4Jax asked the man what he thought about the accusations against Hyde.

"I believe he is capable of doing something like this," he responded. "There is no doubt in my mind because it wasn't about helping individuals, it was preying on them."

Another woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was working at the youth center when Hyde befriended that man. She said that in retrospect, she thinks Hyde preyed on young boys using his Camaro to attract them.

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