JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville waitress' memory has been honored by thousands through social media posts and site memorials.
The search for 21-year-old Savannah Gold started Wednesday afternoon when her mother reported her missing and ended Saturday evening after police said the primary suspect in the Bonefish Grill employee’s disappearance confessed to killing and disposing of the victim’s body in a Westside pond.
Makeshift memorials continue to grow in three locations around Jacksonville for those paying respect to the former Mandarin High and Douglas Anderson School of Arts student. Flowers and candles are arranged on an outside lounge table in front of the restaurant where she worked.
Nearby in the restaurant's parking lot, letters and stuffed toy animal sit by the spot where Gold's abandoned car was located and where police say suspect Lee Rodarte took her life.
Eight miles away on Club Duclay Road, more flowers and mementos mark the place dive teams located human remains on Saturday believed to be Gold's.
Sharon Gold, Savannah's mother, isn't surprised by the outpouring, saying her daughter knew a lot of people in Jacksonville through school and athletics. She says what's shocking is how her daughter's young life was taken by a person she knew.
"He [Rodarte] extinguished such a beautiful soul. She didn’t deserve that," Sharon said through tears. "He dumped her in a pond. So, she was alone, I wasn’t able to be with my baby when she left this earth. I don’t care anything about him. All I care about is her."
While Gold was missing, her story was shared nationwide. A GoFundMe page set up for funeral expenses reached over $20,000 on Monday, with donations coming from those who knew Gold and many others who did not know her at all.
Family and friends began searching for Gold on Wednesday after she did not show up for work at the Bonefish Grill at 10950 San Jose Boulevard. Texts from Gold's phone were sent to her father and brother, but family became suspicious when they spoke of a boyfriend they hadn't heard of and were written in an unfamiliar fashion.
While family and friends searched for Gold, police revealed during a Sunday news conference that they used surveillance video in Mandarin to narrow in on fellow Bonefish Grill culinnary manager Rodarte after a contradiction developed with his alibi.
JSO said that their investigation led them to believe Gold walked over to Rodarte’s car in the Bonefish Grill parking lot on Wednesday evening.
JSO Lieutenant Steve Gallaher told First Coast News that Gold got into Rodarte’s car and a fight ensued. Police said the altercation in the car caused the car to shake.
Rodarte eventually exited his car and reportedly took an object from Gold’s vehicle and punctured one of her tires.
Police said that surveillance video shows that Gold did not exit the suspect’s vehicle after the fight and, during a later interview, the suspect confessed to killing the 21-year-old inside the car.
According to Lieutenant Gallaher, Rodarte told police on Saturday evening that he dumped the victim’s body in a pond off of Club Duclay Drive on the Westside. The pond where her body was found is located in the same subdivision listed on a traffic citation Rodarte received in 2006.
A motive has not been released but it is believed that the suspect and victim were in an off-and-on relationship.
Police said Rodarte has been charged with murder and tampering with evidence.
At last check, he was being held without bond in the Duval County Jail awaiting his next court appearance.
Sources tell us that Rodarte's sister, Amber Lynn Rodarte, is in jail on a murder charge from December 2016.
Bone Fish grill declined to answer questions about Rodarte’s employment history but said in a statement:
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Savannah and will miss the joy and happiness she brought to work every day. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with family and friends during this difficult time, including the people she worked with here at Bonefish Grill."
Previous coverage on the search for Savannah Gold: http://fcnews.tv/2vxrOny
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