Waitress-killer suspect allegedly sent phony text messages from victim’s phone; family history of murder revealed

The suspect who confessed to killing his co-worker and sometimes-girlfriend allegedly sent texts from his victim’s phone to her family, in a possible attempt to cover up the murder.

As CrimeOnline previously reported,  Lee Rodarte, 28, is in custody for the murder of Savannah Gold, 21. He reportedly confessed to killing Gold in the parking lot of the Bonefish Grill in Mandarin, Florida, where they both worked, and led police to her body in a pond about 11 miles away.

Savannah was reported missing last week after she failed to report to work at the Bonefish Grill, where Rodarte works as a manager. Although police initially said they did not believe foul play was involved in Savannah’s disappearance, First Coast News reports that her family was suspicious after receiving unusual text messages from her phone.

The text messages sent to her father and brother reportedly said that Savannah said she had met a “great guy” and was running away with him, but according to First Coast News, her father and brother both noticed the texts were written differently than the way Savannah usually communicated and that no one in her family was familiar with the man she said was her boyfriend.

Police reportedly focused on Rodarte after finding a contradiction in his alibi, and examined surveillance footage of the last time Savannah was at the restaurant, on Wednesday evening. The footage showed Savannah walking to the suspect’s car. During what appeared to be an altercation, the car shook. Rodarte was seen exiting the car and slashing the victim’s tired, but Gold never re-emerged.

Rodarte reportedly confessed to killing Gold during an argument, and said he dumped her body in a pond. After Rodarte led them there, police uncovered a body believed to be Savannah’s.

First Coast News reports that Rodarte’s sister is in jail on a murder charge from 2016.

Rodarte is currently in custody at the Duva County Jail. He is being held without bail.


Feature photo: Police handout