The man charged with murdering a 21-year-old coworker pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning.
Lee Rodarte was arrested earlier this month after the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said he confessed to killing his on-again-off-again girlfriend Savannah Gold.
Rodarte was a manager at Bonefish Grill in Mandarin and Gold was a server there.
JSO said Rodarte led investigators to the pond where he dumped her body.
JSO also said surveillance video appears to show a struggle inside Rodarte’s car.
“You can’t simply convict somebody of a crime because they said they committed a crime,” said Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson.
Carson said he’s not surprised by Rodarte’s pleas of not guilty to second degree murder and evidence tampering charges.
“The State Attorney’s Office has to prove not only that he knew where the body was, but that he actually caused the homicide, the death, of a human being,” said Carson.
Carson said pleading not guilty is the only way for Rodarte’s attorney to look at what’s called “discovery,” the investigative information that led to the arrest.
“It is the function of the defense attorney in every case to examine the evidence and determine whether it’s authentic, whether it’s properly gathered and whether it really does prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his or her client actually committed the crime,” said Carson.
Rodarte’s next court date is scheduled for Sept. 18.
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