JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As the community mourns the loss of 21-year-old Savannah Gold, questions remain on why the first time the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spoke on her disappearance was three days later, when they had found her body and charged a co-worker with murder at 1:15 a.m. Sunday morning.
"The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has been conducting their investigation and information during the investigation has led us to the dead end of Club Duclay Drive, where there’s a lake where human remains were found. Those human remains we do believe were of Savannah Gold," Lt. Steve Gallaher said in that overnight media briefing.
Gallaher said that Lee Rodarte, 28, who worked with Gold at Bonefish Grill in Mandarin, had admitted to killing her and told them where they could find her body.
He said police talked to witnesses and co-workers and gathered surveillance video Thursday and Friday, and by Friday night had noticed a contradiction between Rodarte's statement and what the video showed.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Gold's family and friends appealed for help from the public, passed out flyers in Mandarin and blanketed social media with her photo.
News4Jax asked JSO about why there was no official information about the missing persons case until it was over.
"The investigation progressed and at the point foul play was suspected, we did not need the media's assistance in locating her," Public Information Officer Melissa Bujeda said in an email.
From police documents and statements, News4Jax assembled a timeline of events.
5:15 p.m. - Savannah Gold left her home.
5:31 p.m. - She arrives at Bonefish for work, walks over and gets into Rodarte’s car.
5:45 p.m. - After surveillance shows the car shaking, Rodarte gets out, walks to Gold’s car and leans inside. He also is seen puncturing one of her tires.
6:04 p.m. – Rodarte drives out of the parking lot, and Gold isn’t seen.
7:12 p.m. - Officer dispatched to investigate missing person after Gold's mother calls police.
12:11 a.m. - JSO reports undetermined death on Club Duclay Drive
1:15 a.m. - Gallaher announces body believed to be Gold's found; Rodarte arrested
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, who spent years with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, shared some of the department's protocol in handling missing persons cases.
"There is no strict criteria for what they will release," Smith said. "If it's a silver alert for (the) elderly, they have to meet certain criteria, and same thing with AMBER Alerts, when it's a missing child, it has to meet a certain criteria. But anything other than that, it's pretty much just a judgment call by the Sheriff's Office on how serious they think the case may be or how much the public can assist them. So that's a decision made by the lieutenant or the assistant chief."
News4Jax is waiting to hear when the JSO began its active investigation, when it obtained the surveillance video that showed Gold getting into Rodarte's car in the parking lot of Bonefish Grill on Wednesday afternoon and when officers first questioned Rodarte.
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