COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – As her 17-year-old daughter is believed to be heading north with a 27-year-old high school soccer coach, a Columbia County mother pleaded Wednesday for the teen to contact her family and let her loved ones know that she's safe.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a missing child alert Tuesday for Caitlyn Frisina as surveillance photos obtained by the Sheriff's Office are believed to show her and Rian Rodriguez in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
“If you see this, pumpkin, we just want you to know that we love you and we miss you, and we need to know that you're safe,” Scarlet Frisina said at a Wednesday news conference at the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. “We need to know that you're OK. Call somebody. Let somebody know. We love you and we miss you, and we're waiting here with open arms.”
Sheriff Mark Hunter said authorities don't believe Caitlyn is endangered but she is with a man who is 10 years older than her, and she is still legally a juvenile.
He said deputies are working to get information out, particularly to the northeast communities, because the pair are believed to be headed that direction.
The Sheriff's Office said Caitlyn has family in Pennsylvania and New York state and Rodriguez has family in Canada.
“I believe that we're going to have some citizens who are going to give us a tip that is going to lead to the recovery of her,” Hunter said.
He asked for anyone who spots the pair to call a tip line set up for the case: 877-419-0934. He also encouraged Caitlyn to call her parents and let them know she's OK.
Hunter said Rodriguez was a family friend. He was the head boys soccer coach at Fort White High School, where Caitlyn also played soccer. The two were also both part of the Columbia Youth Soccer Association -- Caitlyn a player and Rodriguez a referee.
The Columbia County School Board approved a recommendation from the superintendent Tuesday to fire Rodriguez for “failure to report to work.” The district said it continues to cooperate with the investigation.
No one appeared to be at a home listed for Rodriguez on Wednesday. The house was at the end of a dead-end road in Lake City with a gate all the way around it.
Authorities believe Caitlyn sneaked out of her bedroom window in the middle of the night.
Her mother discovered she was gone Sunday morning, and after realizing her car and cellphone were still at the home, they called family and friends and then reported her missing to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies said the bedroom window was open, the window screen was off and footprints leading away from Caitlyn's home indicated she was alone when she left.
Deputies said Caitlyn wiped her cellphone by returning it to factory settings before leaving sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Authorities said she withdrew $200 from an ATM in St. Marys, Georgia, on Sunday. The pair were also spotted in South Carolina and at a pawn shop in Fayetteville, North Carolina, deputies said.
According to the missing person report, a friend told investigators that Caitlyn sent her a text message, indicating there may be a relationship between the 17-year-old and Rodriguez.
There are currently no criminal charges pending against Rodriguez, but he could be charged with interference with custody of a child. If located, Caitlyn would be returned to her parents' custody in Columbia County.