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Former Youth Pastor Arrested in Florida Teen’s 1994 Cold Case Murder and Dismemberment (DNA)

Testing by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement matched DNA from the nasal swabs to DNA on the flannel shirt found in the dumpster

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Twenty-three years ago, 16-year-old Fred Paul Laster went missing, and ever since then, his family has prayed for answers.

Those prayers may have been answered with the Tuesday morning arrest of Ronnie Leon Hyde, a 60-year-old counselor and former youth pastor, who was charged in the boy's long cold-case murder and is now being held in a Jacksonville jail.

According to an arrest warrant obtained by PEOPLE, a woman walking her dog the night of June 4, 1994, discovered Laster's torso behind a dumpster at a gas station off Interstate 10 in Florida's Columbia County. Investigators found blood-smeared items including plastic bags, a flannel shirt, two knives and a mattress topper with what appeared to be hair, bone and tissue.

The torso was sent to the Jacksonville Medical Examiner's Office and was found to be that of a male younger than 25. Subsequent examinations further narrowed the victim's age, but a positive identification wouldn't come until years later.

In the meantime, in 1995, a missing persons report filed with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office shows that Laster's family hadn't seen him for nearly eight months. At the time, they believed he may have been traveling with a band.

It wasn't until 2014 when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children published information about the torso on its website, prompting Laster's family to contact the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

Detectives sent DNA samples of family members to the University of North Texas Human Identification Laboratory and in February 2016, lab workers confirmed a familial link with the remains.

From there, the investigation quickly turned to Hyde, a social acquaintance of the Laster family. In one troubling allegation, Laster's sister recalled the two of them spending the night with Hyde and says she woke to find Hyde nude and attempting to wake her brother.

Laster's brother alleged that Hyde owned a set of knives consistent with those found in the dumpster, and said that Hyde had been taking nursing classes.

"This leads to the belief that Hyde has anatomical knowledge and would be familiar with joints, bone structures and bodily organs placement, which would be of value to him during dismemberment of a body," CCSO Deputy Jimmy Watson wrote in the arrest warrant.

Last April, investigators pulled trash from the curb of Hyde's Jacksonville Beach home, including several used nasal swabs. Testing by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement matched DNA from the nasal swabs to DNA on the flannel shirt found in the dumpster. After the DNA link was established, Hyde was arrested and two of his properties were searched by the FBI.

FBI officials have not yet disclosed information that may have been obtained in those search warrants, specifically about whether the remainder of Laster's body may have been recovered.

In a Tuesday press conference, FBI Special Agent Charles Spencer urged the public to contact the FBI if they believed they or others they know might have been victimized by Hyde, whose work afforded him access to children and teens throughout his career.

"We, the immediate family of Fred Paul Laster, have gathered together to support each other as we experience the intense emotions caused by the heartbreaking loss of 'Freddy' and the arrest of his killer," Laster's family said in a statement released via the sheriff's office. "We request privacy as we grieve and focus on laying Freddy to rest."

"Today marks an important and long-awaited moment for Fred Laster's siblings and marks the beginning of our prosecution of their brothers' murder," said Melissa Nelson, State Attorney for Florida's Fourth Judicial Circuit. "Justice has no expiration date."

Hyde has not entered a plea or retained an attorney, though he has filed for criminal indigent status and has asked for a public defender. His arraignment is scheduled for March 29.

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