Bonefish Grill employee's death was 'violent homicide,' autopsy shows

Medical examiner can't determine exact cause of Savannah Gold's death

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The medical examiner tasked with telling prosecutors how a 21-year-old Bonefish Grill employee was killed in August called her death a violent homicide.

Savannah Gold was murdered by a co-worker she had dated, police said.

Lee Rodarte, 28, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and tampering with evidence in Gold's death.

Gold was missing for several days before investigators found her body in a lake at the end of Club Duclay Drive, off Blanding Boulevard near Collins Road.

According to the autopsy report, the medical examiner could not determine Gold's exact cause of death but called it a violent homicide. The report also said Gold had second-degree and third-degree burns over 75 percent of her body.

The State Attorney's Office has given Rodarte’s lawyer evidence in the case, including surveillance video that showed Gold getting into Rodarte’s car outside Bonefish Grill, the car shaking due to a struggle inside, and then Rodarte driving off. 

Police said they confronted Rodarte with the video footage and he confessed to killing Gold and dumping her body.

Gold's family and friends frantically searched for her after her unlocked car with a flat tire and her purse still inside was found in the restaurant parking lot and relatives received text messages from her phone, saying she had met someone and was running away with him, according to a police report.

Gold's family said those texts were out of character, noting that they did not appear to be typed in Gold's style. 

Gold was missing for three days before Rodarte told police where to find her body, according to investigators.

Rodarte's next pretrial hearing is Dec. 12.

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