JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Evidence gathered in the death of 21-year-old Savannah Gold shows that police divers found her burned body in a Westside pond in August, just hours after her ex-boyfriend, Lee Rodarte finished a lengthy interview with detectives.
Gold had been missing for three days. Her car was found outside Bonefish Grill in Mandarin, where she worked, prompting an intensive search.
The medical examiner could not pinpoint the cause of Gold's death, but called it a "violent homicide." Rodarte was arrested and charged with murder.
The State Attorney’s Office released hundreds of crime scene photos, hours of surveillance video and a recording of Rodarte's interrogation by Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detectives to News4Jax on Thursday. The details are disturbing.
Video from the red-light camera at the intersection of San Jose Boulevard and Claire Lane shows Savannah Gold's car arriving in the parking lot of the Bonefish Grill. Then, Rodarte, her co-worker and occasional boyfriend, drove up.
Police said there was a struggle in his back seat and that she kicked the door open three times, but never got out. Another surveillance video shows Rodarte’s car driving away.
Gold’s parents called police after she didn’t come home. Officers found her car in the parking lot with a front tire slashed.
That same day, Gold’s family got an out-of-character text from her, saying she had quit and was leaving with her boyfriend.
Police quickly suspected Rodarte in Gold's disappearance, but when they first interviewed him, he denied having any part in her disappearance.
Detective: "I don’t really care about your feelings. What I care about is finding her. Where is she?"
Rodarte: "I don’t know where she is."
Detective: "I need to know where Savannah is so that I can let her family know."
Rodarte: "(I) don’t know where she is."
He told police that she got into a green truck with an unknown man, but they weren't buying it.
Rodarte: "I didn’t do anything."
Detective: "OK, you didn’t do anything. But she was in your car. She never got out of your car. She never got out of your car."
One hour later, police finally got a statement from him, which was not released. It will remain confidential until the trial.
Within hours of Rodarte’s statement, a dive team found Gold’s body, wrapped up, in a pond at the dead end of a Westside street.
At his home, crime scene investigators found knives, gasoline and bleach, as well as a fire pit.
VIEW: Slideshow of JSO evidence photos
(Warning: contains graphic language)
Rodarte, 29, remains in the Duval County jail without bond on charges of murder and tampering with evidence. He is scheduled to be back in court on March 8.
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