Jacksonville Beach man with ties to local church arrested for 1994 murder


The FBI is urging the public to come forward with any information regarding a 60-year-old Jacksonville Beach resident who was arrested Tuesday morning for a cold case murder.

Ronnie Leon Hyde, a Florida licensed mental health counselor who was associated with but not employed by Ponte Vedra’s Crosswater Community Church, is facing charges for the 1994 murder of Fred Paul Laster, a 16-year-old Nassau County boy. Laster disappeared in June 1994 and was regarded as a missing teen until 2015, when his family was contacted by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities discovered Laster’s dismembered body behind a dumpster at a gas station in Lake City in June 1994, but could not identify him until recently. DNA samples sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification Lab in February 2016 confirmed Laster’s death. Columbia County authorities said recent “technological advances” enabled them to follow up on leads that led them to Hyde, who they believe to be a “social acquaintance” of Laster’s family.

According to Charles Spencer, special agent in charge of FBI’s Jacksonville division, Hyde was a named subject in a previous international child exploitation case. As a result, Spencer is encouraging people to contact his office if they know of anyone who could also have been a victim.

“He traveled frequently throughout the United States and abroad,” Spencer said at a press conference in Columbia County Tuesday. “He had the potential for additional child victims as he had access to children in multiple positions that he held throughout the area.”

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Murray Smith confirmed that Hyde was affiliated with Crosswater Community Church, although he was not a staff member. In a video posted on the church’s website and emailed to church members, Pastor Jack Millwood said his Nocatee-based church is cooperating fully with the FBI in its investigation.

“I am personally not aware of any victim of Ron Hyde that involved anyone associated with Crosswater Church,” said Millwood, who added in an interview with First Coast News that Hyde is not on the paid staff of the church. “If any person or persons has any information regarding potential victims of Ron Hyde, please contact the local FBI office directly.”

Neither authorities nor the church has disclosed the capacity in which Hyde served the organization.

Spencer noted that the FBI is currently conducting searches of Hyde’s two properties in the Greater Jacksonville area: 836 4th Ave. North in Jacksonville Beach and 2076 Thelma St. in Jacksonville.

The investigation is ongoing and active. Individuals with information pertaining to Hyde’s arrest or who may have been victimized by him are urged to contact the FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office at (904) 248-7000.