JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The life of a missing teenager took center stage Wednesday in the trial of a former youth pastor accused of murdering and dismembering the boy.
Ronnie Hyde, now age 65, is charged with first-degree murder in the 1994 murder of Fred Laster, who was 16 years old at the time. An unidentified torso later identified as Fred's was discovered behind a gas station Dumpster in Lake City.
The case went unsolved until Hyde’s arrest in 2017. He is also charged with 25 counts of possessing child pornography, but those will be pursued at a separate trial. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
On Wednesday, two more of Fred's six siblings testified, as well as the medical examiner, who said that it was impossible to tell from the remains how the teen was killed.
His brothers and sisters described a group of children with little adult supervision following the death of their mother, with Fred and his twin sister Daisy having almost free rein.
Now Daisy Williams, she was questioned by Prosecutor Alan Mizrahi about the last time she and her sister spoke to their brother.
"She said ‘Fred?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And she’s like, ‘Are you with Ron?’ And he said, ‘Yeah,’ in like a really different tone, had a funny tone to him," Williams said. "And she’s like, ‘You OK?’ and he said ‘Yeah,’ and then he goes, ‘I just wanted call to tell you all that I love you and I love Pumpkin,’ which is what he called my sister’s daughter. And that was it."
Williams was also grilled pretty hard by Hyde’s attorney Ann Finnell, who challenged her memory of seeing knives and nonstick bathtub stickers in Hyde’s Jacksonville Beach house.
"Just happened to end up being something that was also kind of like what was found in a Dumpster in 1994, and you just in 2002 thought those things might be important?" Finnell asked.
"Never know what could be important," Williams responded.
When the medical examiner was showing pictures of the dismembered torso, Hyde could be seen reacting ever so slightly, shaking his head and looking down, a rare reaction to any testimony.
Jurors also heard from DNA experts and the lead detective of the Jacksonville investigation. Jurors were seen paying close attention as usual, with several taking notes, and none appearing bored or distracted.