Ron Hyde's first court appearance: former client said he is a 'different person'

Team coverage. 3/8/2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A man arrested in a break of a 23-year-old cold case made his first appearance in court Wednesday.

Ron Hyde, 60, is accused of murdering and dismembering 16-year-old Fred Laster in 1994.

Hyde was arrested on Tuesday, shedding light on a 23-year-old cold case, following an FBI search of his home. Laster's body was labeled as a John Doe for years before the Center For Missing and Exploited Children was able to identify the body by testing the DNA of a relative of Laster's.

The FBI and contributing agencies were able to implicate Hyde in the case after going through his garbage and testing his DNA against DNA found on Laster's body.

Jax Beach man arrested for dismemberment, murder of 16-year-old boy in 1994

On Wednesday afternoon, Hyde appeared in court in a red jumpsuit, which indicates a high risk. His bond was set at zero, meaning he cannot be bailed out of jail, and his next court date was set for May 29. 

"Probable cause has been established by an arrest warrant that has previously been issued," the judge stated as Hyde stood before her. "This is not the time to discuss anything about your case sir," the judge continued as Hyde was led off by an officer. "You will have that opportunity on the 29th."

Among the people watching Hyde's first appearance was a former patient. Andrew Sturm said he was a patient of Hyde's for two and a half years. His mother and nephew both saw Hyde as well.

Sturm said almost all of his sessions with Hyde were held at Crosswater Community Church.

"I wouldn't be married and trying for a child today if it wasn't for Ron Hyde, in my opinion," said Sturm.

He said he was there in support of everyone, the victims, the families and for Hyde. "I think the evidence speaks for itself sadly. Whatever happened back then, I think Ron Hyde is a different person, but that doesn't make up for whatever happened back then if he is guilty."

'Cold case' family suspected accused killer 22 years ago

FBI searches of properties owned by child murder suspect Hyde reached a stopping point Wednesday evening.

Representatives with the FBI said their evidence response teams have completed their search of a home located on Thelma Street, just minutes outside of downtown Jacksonville. Hyde is believed to have resided there in the 1990s, according to an affidavit for arrest warrant.

However the extensive search and collection of items in Hyde’s current beach residence has only been suspended. The FBI announced plans to resume their scheduled search Thursday.

Hyde was licensed with the state of Florida as a Mental Health Counselor in 2007 with an active status on the National Provider Network (NPI).

In addition to providing counseling services at Jacksonville churches, the Yulee native also counseled inmates. 

Ashley Cook, press secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Ronnie Hyde is currently employed by Centurion, the FDC health services contractor.

In a statement to Firsts Coast News, Cook said “the Department’s Office of Inspector General is cooperating fully with the FBI, and will deploy any available resource needed to ensure this individual is held accountable. Both FDC and its contractors have zero tolerance for criminal activity and will ensure that Mr. Hyde will have no further contact with inmates.”

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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