Lake City community rocked as search continues for teen, soccer coach
Caitlyn Frisina, Rian Rodriguez believed to be headed north together
LAKE CITY, Fla. – The small town of Lake City has been shaken by the sudden disappearance of a 17-year-old girls soccer player who is believed to have run off with a 27-year-old high school coach.
Caitlyn Frisina and Rian Rodriguez are now the center of a nationwide search, which is drawing a lot of attention to the close-knit Columbia County community.
A community that joins Caitlyn's parents in hoping for her safe return.
“I want her to come home,” Lake City resident Darlene Harding said Thursday, fighting back her emotions. “I have a 16-year-old grandson, so I know.”
Authorities said they had no new sightings of the pair Thursday. They were last spotted at the Parker Pawn and Jewelry in Fayetteville, North Carolina -- about 450 miles from Caitlyn’s hometown.
Deputies still believe the two are in a red 2001 Mercury Sable with the Florida tag Z04CSC, continuing to head north. The Sheriff's Office said Caitlyn has family in Pennsylvania and New York state and Rodriguez has family in Canada.
Sheriff Mark Hunter said Wednesday that authorities don't believe Caitlyn is endangered but that she is with a man who is 10 years older than her, and she is still legally a juvenile.
Caitlyn and Rodriguez were spotted in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina this week after the pair took off together from Columbia County sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, deputies said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a missing child alert Tuesday for Caitlyn.
Hunter 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.
Caitlyn's mother pleaded Wednesday for the teen to call her family.
“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. “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.”
Caitlyn's father posted a photo of a beach sunrise Thursday morning on Facebook with a post reading in part: “Nothing is beyond our love for you! You know this place. It is safety, peace and understanding.”
Harding said she’ll continue to spread the word on social media as well.
“Honey, if you’re out there, please come home. Your family -- it’s heart-wrenching,” Harding said.
The pair's road trip has already coast Rodriguez his job.
The former Fort White High School head boys soccer coach was fired Wednesday by the Columbia County School Board for “failure to report to work.”
News4Jax knocked on the door at the address listed for Rodriguez on the missing person report, but no one answered
Teen, coach disappear
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.
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.
Investigators said Wednesday that Caitlyn and Rodriguez had been spotted in four cities in the last four days.
Authorities said Caitlyn withdrew $200 from an ATM in St. Marys, Georgia, on Sunday. Deputies said the pair were also spotted at a Pilot gas station in Saint George, South Carolina; in Hardeeville, South Carolina; and at Parker Jewelry and Pawn Shop in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
In surveillance photos from inside the Pilot gas station in Saint George, deputies said, Rodriguez and Caitlyn -- who's wearing a winter cap, hiding her long, brown hair -- can be seen standing next to each other.
Other surveillance images appear to show Rodriguez behind the counter inside the pawn shop in Fayetteville. When News4Jax contacted the pawn shop to find out what he was pawning, employees said they had no comment.
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.
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