Lee Rodarte is accused of murdering 21-year-old Savannah Gold in his car while they argued in the parking lot of the restaurant where they both worked in Jacksonville, Florida.
Police say the pair were filmed by surveillance cameras getting in to the vehicle on Wednesday before Savannah’s 5.30pm shift.
Rodarte was later filmed driving away from the Bonefish Grill and Savannah was never seen again.
She was reported missing after failing to show up for work. Police reviewed the surveillance footage and questioned Rodarte who confessed to the killing.
Once in custody, he led police to the lake where he dumped the 21-year-old’s body.
It is not clear what the pair were arguing about when the murder took place.
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said they had an ‘on-off’ relationship.
On Wednesday, Savannah was seen first approaching the man’s car and speaking to him through the driver’s seat window shortly before she was due to start work at 5.30pm.
She then got into the car on the passenger side.
‘At 5.45pm, the video surveillance shows what appears to be a possible struggle inside of the vehicle,’ a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office statement said of the footage.
After the struggle, Rodarte was filmed getting out of the vehicle and slashing the tires on Savannah’s. He was also seen retrieving something from the driver’s seat of her car.
At 6.04pm, he drove out of the parking lot.
When Savannah failed to appear for work, the restaurant contacted her family to report her missing.
Her father then received a suspicious text message which claimed she had run away with ‘a really great guy’.
The text message was littered with spelling errors.
‘I immediately knew it wasn’t her. We text each other all day and every day, and this was not from my daughter. It was from someone else,’ Savannah’s mother Sherri Gold told Fox News.
Rodarte first told police that he hadn’t seen Savannah and had not been near the restaurant.
Deputies arrested him on Saturday for driving on a suspended license. Once in custody, he confessed to killing Savannah and took police to the lake.
An autopsy had not yet been carried out. Rodarte has been charged with murder and with tampering with evidence.
Savannah’s family shared their grief on social media after learning that her remains had been found.
‘My heart has burst. Z, my baby girl is gone,’ Sherri Gold, her mother, said.
She attended Rodarte’s first court appearance on Sunday and told friends afterwards: ‘Dan and I just attended the killer’s First Appearance in Court. We will be there for every single step of the way. I will never mention him by name.’
The restaurant where the pair worked was closed on Sunday.
The company which owns the restaurant 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.’