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Guilty plea in murder of 27-year-old woman found in Sandalwood retention pond

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force arrested North Samuel Cole Pridgen last March on a charge of murder.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville man charged with the September 2021 death and disappearance of a 27-year-old woman has changed his plea to guilty, according to court documents.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force arrested North Samuel Cole Pridgen last March on a charge of murder in the death of Teresa Janette Gorczyca.

Pridgen's sentencing will be March 3, documents show.

Gorczyca was initially reported missing on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. 

During the investigation, detectives learned information that led them to a body of water in the 2100 block of Alfa Romeo Drive in Sandalwood, JSO said. 

The arrest report says that same day, a witness came forward and told police that his friend, Pridgen, confessed to strangling his girlfriend and hiding her body in a lake.

The witness told investigators he received a Facebook message from Pridgen, asking him to pick him up as soon as possible near a bridge, according to the warrant. Once he was riding in the car with his friend, Pridgen allegedly confessed to strangling Gorczyca.

Credit: Jacksonville Sheriff's Office
North Samuel Cole Pridgen, 28, was arrested Tuesday and charged with murder in the September 2021 death of 27-year-old Teresa Gorczyca.

The following day, detectives spoke with Pridgen about what happened. He said that he picked Gorczyca up around 11 a.m. in a Lyft before they went back to his parent's house. 

Pridgen described their night to officials, saying they listened to music and smoked weed together. According to him, Gorczyca left alone around 1:30 p.m. to walk to her parent's house. Pridgen claimed he did not have any contact with his girlfriend after she left. 

According to the warrant, Pridgen told detectives he spent the rest of his evening playing basketball. When he returned home for the night, he said his parents kicked him out, so he spent the rest of his night at a friend's apartment.

When authorities were talking to Pridgen, they noticed his hands, arms, were covered with scratches. He told police the injuries were from playing basketball and detectives thought they looked liked they could be from brush or branches.

Continuing their investigation, detectives went to the bridge where the witness picked Pridgen up. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office dive team was called out to help. Law enforcement located a backpack on the bank of the canal that runs under the bridge. 

Gorczyca's ID and personal possessions were found inside.

Three days later, officials found Gorczyca's body on the bank of the canal, close to where her backpack was originally found. Investigators determined her body had been hidden under brush and debris. It was severely decomposed, the warrant said. 

When an autopsy was conducted, bruising was found on Gorczyca's arms stomach and neck.

The arrest warrant describes surveillance video of the couple walking together in the direction of the canal. The warrant says Gorczyca can be heard saying "you're not coming with me", "get out of my way" and "go home", to Pridgen. 

Later on, Pridgen is seen walking back to his parent's home, alone. He appears to be wet in the video, according to the warrant.

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