Man claims self-defense in killing of Bonefish Grill co-worker

In petition, Lee Rodarte claims he was assaulted by Savannah Gold

By Corley Peel - Reporter, Nick Jones - Digital producer, Frank Powers - Assignment manager

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville man charged with murder in the 2017 killing of his on-again, off-again girlfriend and co-worker now claims self-defense.

Lee Rodarte filed a new petition saying Savannah Gold attacked him and he accidentally snapped the 21-year-old's neck while trying to protect himself.

Rodarte and Gold, who were dating at the time, both worked at the Bonefish Grill in Mandarin.

According to investigators, on Aug. 2, 2017, the couple met in the parking lot. Rodarte claims that during an argument, Gold was slapping him on his head.

The petition says Rodarte tried to push Gold out of the car but lost his grip. It says Gold continued slapping Rodarte on the head and that she grabbed Rodarte by the neck.

According to the petition, "In pain and fearing imminent serious bodily harm, the defendant grabbed Ms. Gold's neck in an effort to break her grip." As they struggled, Rodarte shifted his weight and placed her in the backseat of the car, which is when he heard and felt a pop in Gold's neck.

Savannah GoldGold was missing for three days. During a previous interrogation, Rodarte denied having any involvement in her disappearance.

Investigators got a statement from Rodarte after the interrogation, which led police to a Westside pond where they discovered Gold's body. Surveillance video showed Rodarte's vehicle in the area. At Rodarte's home, investigators found knives, gasoline, bleach and a fire pit.

The medical examiner was not able to determine a cause of death, but called it a 'violent homicide.' According to the examiner, 75% of Gold's body was burned.

Rodarte has requested a judge to set a stand your ground hearing. His next hearing is scheduled for August 8, and the trial is set to begin August 26.

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