JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Less than a month after an appeals court denied a petition for comment for a Jacksonville man who alleged he accidentally killed his girlfriend over and over again in self-defense, that man made a plea with the prosecutor, the state law firm upheld .
Lee Rodarte appeared in court Tuesday, declaring himself ready to plead guilty of second degree murder and evidence of Savannah Gold’s death. He is expected to officially join this plea during a hearing on Thursday afternoon.
Attorney Obinna Anum, unrelated to the case, says the informed consent is a win for Gold’s loved ones.
“The good news for the family is that it avoids litigation. A trial where witnesses would have to testify, maybe even some of these family members, ”Anum said.
The 21-year-old Gold was reported missing on August 3, 2017. Police later found that they had met with Rodarte the day before at the Bonefish Grill, where the couple worked. Rodarte was arrested a few days later.
The surveillance footage released as part of the discovery process shows gold getting into Rodarte’s car in front of the restaurant before disappearing. The vehicle shakes and later drives away from the parking lot.
Rodarte claims the couple got into an argument and Gold became violent. His petition says he acted out of fear.
The petition states: “In pain and fear of impending serious bodily harm, the defendant grabbed Ms. Gold by the neck to break her grip.” As they struggled, Rodarte shifted his weight and put her in the back seat of the car when he heard and felt a crack in Gold’s neck, the petition says.
The trial judge initially denied the petition, but Rodarte’s attorney appealed the decision to the First District Court of Appeals. The case has since been put on hold while the appeals court considered a decision. The court of appeal later followed suit with the original judge’s decision.
Rodarte initially denied having anything to do with Gold’s disappearance, but police said he admitted killing her and then dumping her body. This information led investigators to a west side pond where they are recovering Gold’s body.
In addition to a surveillance video showing Rodarte’s car near the pond where gold was found, police said they found knives, gasoline, bleach and a fireplace in his home.
A sentencing date has been set for March 11th.
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