An arrest has been made in an unsolved 23-year-old homicide case in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Department held a press conference March 7 to announce the arrest of Ronald “Ronnie” Hyde, 60, following an FBI raid on his home earlier in the day.
Hyde was arrested and charged in the murder of Fred Paul Laster. The case had been under investigation since it occurred in 1994, but the body remained unidentified until 2015. It was then that officials received a call from a family of a man that had been missing for over 20 years, and Laster was positively identified as the victim in the case with DNA samples from the family in February 2016.
Here’s what you need to know about Hyde and the case:
1. Hyde’s Arrest is Reportedly In Relation to a 1994 Murder
The arrest is in relation to a murder investigation from June 1994. The dismembered body of a man believed to be between the ages of 16 and 22 was found by a BP gas station dumpster. Investigators had believed that the man was killed at another location and his body was dumped near the gas station dumpster.
A woman walking her dog near the business located the body and asked an employee at the BP if they happened to throw away a mannequin, or if it was a body. The employee said the body’s legs and arms were cut off. Investigators found a garbage bag full of clothes inside the dumpster.
The victim was identified 22-years later as Fred Paul Laster, who was 16-years old when his body was found by the dumpster. He was from Nassau, Florida and went missing in 1994.
Columbia County Sheriff Dennis Richards said that Laster and Hyde were “social acquaintances,” but wouldn’t elaborate further on their connection. It was later reported by WJXT that Laster and Hyde at one point lived together.
2. Hyde is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Investigators confirmed at the afternoon press conference that Hyde is a registered mental health counselor.
According to his Facebook, Hyde wrote that he works at Crosswater Community Church in Ponte Vedra Beach. However, the pastor at the church said Hyde isn’t on staff and it’s currently unknown if he volunteered there. Pastor Jack Millwood gave a statement to Shelby Danielsen of First Coast News WTLV/WJXX, asking those who potentially had contact with Hyde to come forward to law enforcement and call the FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office at (904) 248-7000.
Hyde’s LinkedIn page says that he is an owner-therapist of LMHC “Let’s Talk!” He wrote that at the facility he provides a “wide range of mental health services to the public, including marriage/family counseling, individual counseling for adults, addictions treatment” and more.
Prior to that, he reportedly worked as a therapist for Lakeview Health for about one year, where he provided inpatient drug treatment for adults.
From 1999-2000, Hyde developed a program called “Keeping Kids Safe,” his LinkedIn page said. He provided group therapy to adult and teen sex offenders and taught parents, schools, businesses and law enforcement how to protect kids from being abducted.
It was reported that Hyde didn’t pay $13,000 in business taxes in 2003 and 2004, putting him on the federal government’s list to be raided.
3. The FBI Raided Hyde’s Home In Jacksonville Beach
The FBI had an extensive search of a home in Jacksonville Beach beginning at around 7 a.m. EST on March 7. The home was positively identified as Hydes. Hazmat suits were worn on the scene by responding officials, and neighbors could see agents sorting through boxes by the home and taking out things such as CDs and DVDs.
Later in the day during the search, officials were seen digging in the backyard of the home.
The extensive search by the FBI occurred after Hyde’s arrest and is still ongoing, an FBI investigator said during a press conference.
The FBI also said more than one search is ongoing at different locations and will continue as long as all evidence is obtained. Shortly after the press conference, it was reported that another house has been barricaded and searched by police.
Police said during the press conference that it’s currently unknown if the alleged murder is serial in nature.
4. The FBI Is Asking Those With Contact With Hyde to Come Forward
Because of his occupation and extensive access to children, the FBI hinted that Hyde may have had relations with more than just Laster.
The FBI confirmed that Hyde was a suspect in a past international child exploitation case.
An official from the FBI asked the public for help in the case during the press conference, saying that Hyde has had a potential for preying on children. He asked those who may have been victimized by Hyde to come forward and contact the FBI. A flyer was released at the press conference saying that Hyde has maintained his residence in Jacksonville since he was born, but traveled extensively around the country.
5. Neighbors Say the House Appeared to be Abandoned
Neighbors of Hyde said that the home was left vacant for the past year. But News 4 Jacksonville reported that isn’t true, finding a neighbor that said Hyde had boarded up his home and just didn’t take care of it, which is why it looked abandoned.
The same neighbor told the news outlet that he was only seen late night and would only say “hi neighbor” to those around him.
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