After less than three hours of deliberations, the jury returned with a guilty verdict Friday against a former youth pastor accused of killing and dismembering a 16-year-old boy in 1994.
In an unusual move, Ronnie Hyde told Judge Tatiana Salvador he was ready to be sentenced immediately as Fred Laster’s five siblings watched from the front row. They had left a seat open for their slain brother.
After a tear-filled statement from Laster’s brother, Travis, who recounted all that “Freddy’s” family was deprived of by his murder, Salvador handed down the mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
“He was loved. He was loved dearly. He had a grandmother who on her death bed questioned what happened to Freddy. She died nearly hours later not knowing. We have our brothers and sisters who have wondered what happened to Freddy,” Travis said. “We lost a future with our brother. We lost a brother that we don’t get to call on the weekends and ask, ‘Hey, did you see the ball game?’ We lost a brother, like, ‘Hey, Freddy, did you write a new song? We like the last one you wrote. Did you get anything when you were out of town?’”
The family also provided this statement:
“We never gave up hope. This has been a long, emotional road and we are grateful there is finally justice for Fred. We miss him dearly and miss the future we will never have with him. We would like to thank everyone who over the past 20+ years served a role to secure today’s outcome. Specifically, we would like to thank the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office; Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office; Jacksonville Beach Police Department; FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement; the State Attorney’s Office and prosecutors Alan Mizrahi and Terence Martin; Angela Judah, Agent Abbi Beccaccio; and Detective Jimmy Watson. We love you, Fred.”
After surprising many in court Thursday when he opted to take the stand in his own defense, Hyde faced a contentious cross-examination Friday morning from prosecutor Alan Mizrahi, who grilled Hyde about his account of the last time he saw Laster.
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SOURCE: News4Jax, Ashley Harding, Jenese Harris, and Brie Isom