The mother of a Florida teenager who was found in New York days after her disappearance with a 27-year-old soccer coach from her school was overcome with relief Monday as she addressed reporters at a news conference.
Her daughter, 17-year-old Caitlyn Frisina, was home. A week-long nightmare had ended.
“We understand and we realize that this was a very big deal,” said Scarlet Frisina at the news conference in Florida’s Columbia County, where the family lives. “We are already taking steps toward rebuilding our lives after such an emotional week.”
“By lots of grace and love, we will heal,” she said.
Caitlyn Frisina, a senior at Fort White High School, had been missing since Nov. 25 after she appeared to have left through her bedroom window, according to the Associated Press. A soccer coach at her school, Rian Rodriguez, allegedly ran off with her to central New York, where they were found on Dec. 1.
Rodriguez, who coached the boys’ soccer team at Frisina’s school, has been charged with interference with a child’s custody. He has been suspended from the school, according to the Associated Press.
Police said they are investigating whether he and Frisina had a sexual relationship, according to ABC News.
The teen’s mother said the family was relieved to have her home and is grateful for the support of friends, neighbors and law enforcement during the search for her daughter.
“We are looking forward to a very merry Christmas and an extremely bright future for Caitlyn and our family,” she said.
Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter said Monday that he was proud of the teen for attending the news conference. He said Frisina had been “influenced by somebody who was in control, was in a supervisory role.”
“That shouldn’t be,” he said. “She’s got a lot of growing up to do even though she’s a very strong young lady.”
Press Conference on safe return of Caitlyn Frisina
Posted by Columbia County Sheriff's Office on Monday, December 4, 2017
Frisina was first reported missing on Nov. 26, shortly after she withdrew $200 from an ATM in St. Marys, Ga., sheriff’s officials said in a Facebook statement. Frisina had left her cellphone at home, but it was wiped clean, officers said.
Frisina and Rodriguez reached Syracuse, N.Y., on Nov. 27. Rodriguez got a job at an area business, Prime Time Marketing, and wanted to work there until he could save enough money to obtain fake documents for Frisina and himself to cross the Canadian border, according to Syracuse.com’s interview with Todd Grant, the New York State police officer who arrested him. Grant and several other area officers had been on the lookout for Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was driving his red Mercury Sable GS away from an employee orientation at his job when Grant recognized the vehicle, pulled a U-turn and arrested Rodriguez at gunpoint in a parking lot, according to Syracuse.com.
Four sheriff’s deputies and an FBI special agent arrived on the scene and helped handcuff Rodriguez. They removed Frisina from the car, where she had apparently been waiting during Rodriguez’s two-hour orientation, Syracuse.com reported.
Whether Rodriguez and Frisina had a sexual relationship was not immediately clear. Rodriguez’s arrest affidavit, obtained by People, says one of Frisina’s friends said that she was intimate with Rodriguez and that Frisina told her friends “she didn’t know how to get out [of] it and if she did he would mess up her life.”
Though the history on Frisina’s phone had been erased, the data recovered on a SIM card showed she and Rodriguez were in a sexual relationship, People reported.
A school resource officer investigated a rumor in August that Frisina and Rodriguez were in a relationship but ruled it to be unfounded, according to People.
Caitlyn’s family could not be immediately reached for comment.