A Florida man admitted to killing his Bonefish Grill co-worker and will spend 40 years behind bars after pleading guilty to second-degree murder last week.
Lee Rodarte Jr., 30, killed 21-year-old Savannah Gold, with whom he had an on-again, off-again relationship, in 2017. According to PEOPLE, the defense and the prosecution agreed to a 40-year sentence with credit for time served. Judge Jeb Branham decided to uphold the negotiated sentence.
According to law enforcement officials, Gold left home for work at the Bonefish Grill in Mandarin but never made it. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office obtained a surveillance video that shows Gold getting into Rodarte’s car. The two are seen struggling in the vehicle, and then Rodarte drives away with Gold still in the car.
Following the incident, Rodarte began sending messages to Gold’s family using her phone. He also contacted other family members and her friends, pretending to be her the whole time. Her family instantly became suspicious of the poorly spelled messages.
When speaking with investigators, Rodarte changed his story multiple times before admitting he killed Gold. He killed her in the parking lot before disposing of her body in a nearby lake. A dive team recovered Gold’s body.
During Rodarte’s sentencing, family members read victim impact statements, according to local outlet CBS 47.
“Savannah could have changed countless lives. That was taken from us on Aug. 2, 2017, by Lee Rodarte,” Savannah’s father, Dan Gold, said.
“How do I put into words what my child meant to me? She loved fiercely; she gave freely; she was funny, kind and a fantastic dancer,” her mother, Sharon Gold, said in her statement.