Duval County

Confessed killer of Savannah Gold, Lee Rodarte, pleads guilty to 2nd degree murder

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Lee Rodarte, the man who confessed to the 2017 killing of 21-year-old Savannah Gold and led investigators to her body, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Thursday.

Rodarte appeared virtually before 4th Circuit Court Judge Jeb Branham to file the plea agreement made with prosecutors.

“You understand that you are pleading guilty, and you will be adjudicated guilty to count one, second-degree murder,” said Judge Branham. “… Do you understand that to be the sentence that you have agreed to?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Rodarte.

Action News Jax reported in 2019 when Rodarte tried to claim self-defense in 2019. His claim was later denied.

Rodarte had also been charged with evidence tampering and abusing a body, but those charges were dropped as part of his plea agreement.

Prosecutors and the defense negotiated a sentence of 40 years in prison with credit for time served.

However, Thursday’s hearing did not include Rodarte’s formal sentencing.

He’ll appear before a judge on March 11 to be sentenced.

Investigators say Rodarte changed his story early on, before eventually confessing to Gold’s killing and leading police to her body.

Erica Inman tells Action News Jax she grew up with Rodarte.

“I never saw anything that made me think that he was aggressive or obviously able to take it that far,” said Inman.

On Aug. 2, 2017, investigators say Gold left her home to go to work at the Bonefish Grill in Mandarin, where she worked with Rodarte.

Gold didn’t show up for work and was reported missing.

Investigators say the two had an on-again, off-again relationship.

JSO found surveillance video of Gold parking her car at the Bonefish Grill and getting into Rodarte’s car.

Police said there was a struggle in his car before Rodarte drove away with Gold inside.

Inman says she’s grateful this day has come for Gold’s family.

“I’m happy for Savannah Gold’s family, that they were able to get some closure,” said Inman.

“Because I know for a while it was on hold.”

The State Attorney’s Office tells Action News Jax Gold’s family does not wish to speak publicly at this time and they’re focused on preparing for Rodarte’s sentencing in March.


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