JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Vivid colors fill a portrait of a lacrosse player sitting on the ground during a game.
The player is Savannah Gold.
Her step-grandmother began to paint the portrait before the 21-year-old was killed in 2017 and finished it after Savannah Gold was buried. It sits just steps away from the foyer of the Gold family home.
Savannah Gold's parents, Daniel and Sherri God, have dozens of photos of special memories of their two children around the home. But their daughter is gone and the photos preserve her undying spirit.
"She had a beautiful smile, a twinkle in her eye," Daniel Gold said.
"She was a go-getter," Sherri Gold said.
SLIDESHOW: Family photos of Savannah Gold
According to police, Savannah Gold was killed by Lee Rodarte, her on-again, off-again boyfriend who she worked with at a Jacksonville Bonefish Grill location.
Savannah Gold was initially reported missing Aug. 3, 2017.
"I was looking for her. Dan was working -- he worked 12 hour shifts. In that time, I was looking. I went to Bonefish. I went to the bank, trying to secure footage. I went to try to get her phone pinged," Sherri Gold said. " I was doing everything because I knew something was wrong."
Three days later, a homicide detective went to the Gold home.
"He knocked on the door and informed us, formally, that they had found her body and she is deceased," Daniel Gold said. "At that point in time, she was still such a little girl to me. I'm not thinking about marriage for her, not thinking about grandchildren. I'm thinking she is still my little girl."
"It's surreal. This child that you raised for 21 years," said Sherri Gold. "A part of you, as a parent, you don't want to believe it. You just, kind of, feel like you're living in a dream -- a nightmare. It's devastating."
Police later found Savannah Gold had met with Rodarte the day before she was reported missing at the Bonefish Grill where the couple worked. He was arrested a couple of days later.
"As a father, I felt extreme loss, extreme anger and real down to the depth sorrow that my daughter is gone," Daniel Gold said. "
Rodarte, 31, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of second-degree murder, evidence tampering and abuse of a dead body in the case. Jury selection for Rodarte's trial was scheduled to begin on Monday, but an appeals court on Friday issued a stay in the case after Rodarte's lawyer filed a challenge to a circuit judge's ruling that denied his petition for legal protection under the Stand Your Ground law.
Gold's family is disappointed by the delay.
"This person has taken the most beautiful thing in our lives away from us and we can not allow that person to take more control over our emotions," said Daniel Gold.
While Gold's parents are fighting in court for justice, her mom has fought another battle, Stage 4 cancer.
"My cancer has come back twice, but chemotherapy, surgery, nothing is going to keep us from those hearings. We have been to 26 hearings out of the 27. We have had to be in the same room with the person that took our daughter's life. We need this to end," said Sherri Gold. "We are seeking justice for our daughter."
"We are going to be there every step of the way ... because somebody has to represent Savannah," Daniel Gold said.
Savannah Gold's parents do not have any questions for Rodarte, saying they believe his answers would all be lies.
In honor of their daughter, they plan to teach other young adults about the signs of domestic violence in hopes of saving someone else's life.
To learn more about domestic violence or get help, the following resources are available:
- Hubbard House (Baker and Duval counties): hubbardhouse.org or 904-354-3114
- Micah's Place (Nassau County): micahsplace.org or 904-225-9979
- Betty Griffin Center (St. Johns County): bettygriffincenter.org or 904-824-1555
- Quigley House (Clay County): quigleyhouse.org or 904-284-0061
- Lee Conlee House (Putnam County): leeconleehouse.org or 386-325-3141
- Peaceful Paths (Bradford, Alachua and Union counties): peacefulpaths.org or 352-377-8255
- Florida Domestic Violence Hotline: fcadv.org or 1-800-500-1119
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: thehotline.org or 1-800-799-7233
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