Co-Worker Sends Family Texts Pretending To Be Daughter After Murdering Her And Dumping Body

 “When I read it, I knew, that it wasn’t from her immediately.” 

By Benjamin H. Smith

A restaurant co-worker of Savannah Gold, the 21-year-old Florida woman who was reported missing last Wednesday, confessed to her murder and led police to her body Saturday, according to NBC affiliate WTLV.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office posted a message on its Twitter page yesterday, saying, “Savannah Gold: #JSO has arrested Lee Rodarte, 28 years old, a manager at Bonefish Grill, where she worked, for her murder,” along with the killer’s mugshot. It is believed the two had a casual romantic relationship.

Gold's family and friends became concerned Wednesday evening after she didn’t show up for her shift at the seafood restaurant chain’s Jacksonville, Florida location. In the parking lot, police found her car. It was unlocked, with her purse still inside it, and the front, left tire punctured.

Within hours of when her shift was supposed to begin, relatives received text messages from her phone, saying she had met a man with whom she was running away. Rather than putting their minds at ease, police said it was an immediate sign to the family that something was terribly wrong. “When I read it, I knew, that it wasn’t from her immediately,” Gold’s mother Sharon told WTLV. “The hairs on the back of my neck went up.”

Among those handing out missing person flyers and offering their sympathies to the family Thursday was 28-year-old Lee Rodarte. Police say he was the Bonefish Grill’s culinary manager and describe Gold as his “casual girlfriend,” according to Jacksonville’s WJXT Channel 4

Police immediately began to focus on Rodarte as a suspect after noticing discrepancies in his account of the night Gold went missing. Security camera footage captured Gold getting into Rodarte’s vehicle soon after arriving at work, then his car shaking violently. “The car was shaking, and the door was opening and closing,” said Lt. Steve Gallaher of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Homicide Unit during a news conference Sunday. Afterward, Rodarte walked up to Gold’s car, slashed one of its tires, and then drove off. At no point was Gold seen getting out of Rodarte’s car.

Police initially took Rodarte into custody Saturday on a warrant for driving with a suspended driver’s license, according to The Florida Times Union. During questioning, he confessed to killing Gold and agreed to show authorities where he dumped her body in a lake near a wooded area. Divers recovered a body, and an autopsy is expected today, which will confirm it as that of Savannah Gold’s.

Rodarte was charged with murder and tampering with evidence Sunday, and is currently being held without bond.

[Photo: Handout, WTLV]

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