EXCLUSIVE: Caitlyn found safe in NY, parents relieved and en route
The first phone call gave Scarlet Frisina a glimmer of hope about her missing 17-year-old daughter.
After what seemed like the longest eight minutes of her life, the second call confirmed the good news.
Caitlyn Morgan Frisina, the Fort White High School girl who disappeared over the weekend with Rian Rodriguez, a 27-year-old soccer coach from her school, was found safe in Syracuse, New York, Friday afternoon, according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
“We are just absolutely thrilled to death,” the teen’s mother told the Lake City Reporter Friday afternoon.
Scarlet Frisina said Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter called her with an unconfirmed report that a state trooper in New York had found Caitlyn and Rodriguez.
Eight minutes later, he called her back to confirm Caitlyn was safely in custody. She will be detained until her parents can take her home.
“I did a whole lot of praying in those few minutes,” Frisina said.
A state trooper in New York was heading home after 4 p.m. when he saw the 2001 red Mercury Sable the pair was believed to be traveling in and pulled them over without incident, according to CCSO.
Hunter offered his gratitude to other agencies for their assistance in solving the case.
“I’m just thankful to the New York State Police and the U.S. Marshals Service,” Hunter said.
Though they hadn’t yet spoken to Caitlyn as of Friday night, Frisina said the family was making arrangements to fly to New York to see her.
Caitlyn was first reported missing Sunday morning.
“It has a huge roller coaster for us over these past five days,” the mother said. “We are emotionally drained, but we are absolutely elated to have her safe. There’s no way to express how much we appreciate everybody’s thoughts and prayers during this time for us.”
Caitlyn’s disappearance gained national media attention. News outlets in at least 35 states covered the story, said CCSO spokesman Murray Smith.
“I don’t know anybody with a heart that wouldn’t grieve for this type of situation,” Smith said hours before the teen was located.
Rodriguez faces a charge of interfering with the custody of a minor, according to authorities. He is behind bars in New York until CCSO can extradite him back to Florida.
As the family packed its bags for the Empire State, most of the facts behind Caitlyn’s disappearance remained a mystery.
Frisina said she and her daughter would have much to discuss after their reunion.
“There’s just so many questions and emotions,” the mother said.
Evidence suggests Caitlyn left with Rodriguez willingly, CCSO reported during the search.
Investigators believe she climbed through her bedroom window. A single set of footprints indicated she walked to a nearby road, according to the sheriff’s office.
The teen took a few items with her, but wiped all the data from her phone and left it behind.
Caitlyn sent a text message to one of her friends hinting at a relationship between herself and Rodriguez, according to CCSO.
The friend forwarded a copy of the message to Caitlyn’s parents, who provided it to deputies.
Surveillance cameras recorded footage of Caitlyn and Rodriguez Sunday morning at an ATM in St. Marys, Georgia, and a gas station in Saint George, Georgia. They were recorded again later that night at a pawn shop in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Caitlyn is a player on the girls soccer team at Fort White High School, where Rodriguez was head coach for the boys team before the school board suspended and fired him for going AWOL.
Rodriguez previously worked as an assistant coach under Caitlyn’s father, Ward Frisina.