Police Investigating If Teen and Soccer Coach Who Allegedly Vanished Together Had 'Intimate Relationship'
Authorities have no indication Rian Rodriquez has kidnapped or is holding Caitlyn Frisina against her will, but "she needs to be home with her family"
Police are investigating the possibility of an “intimate relationship” between a missing 17-year-old girl and her 27-year-old high school soccer coach as they continue to search for the pair who they believe are heading north from their homes in Florida after disappearing on Sunday.
“We have been able to verify that the two are together,” Columbia County, Florida, Sheriff’s Detective Capt. Katina Dicks tells PEOPLE. “As far as any intimate relationship, we have not been able to confirm any of that.”
Another spokesman for the agency, Sgt. Murray Smith, tells PEOPLE that investigators have not overlooked that possibility as a factor that caused Caitlyn Frisina and Rian Rodriquez to disappear.
“There wasn’t any indication that they had a relationship up until they left,” Smith says. “Once they left and everybody was interviewed, there still was no smoking gun that they were in a relationship.”
“But it is our belief that one or both of them began to have some type of feelings that they wanted to be together, so that’s why they left,” he says.
Authorities in Columbia County believe Caitlyn took off on her own accord after learning that she left behind her cell phone whose data had been wiped clean, according to statements posted on the sheriff’s department Facebook page.
Rodriguez is the head boys soccer coach at Caitlyn’s Fort White High School, where he also worked as an assistant coach on Caitlyn’s girls soccer team, Dicks says.
Caitlyn withdrew $200 from an ATM on the day of her disappearance in St. Marys, Georgia, about 115 miles north of Fort White, Florida, and a second sighting of the pair together was caught on convenience store surveillance video that later placed them in South Carolina, Smith says.
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The two are believed to be traveling north in a red Mercury Sable with Florida tag Z04CSC. Smith said Frisina’s father has relatives in New York and Rodriguez has relatives in Canada and maybe Pennsylvania.
Caitlyn’s mother, Scarlet Frisina, described Rodriguez as a longtime family friend who appeared not to pose a threat, reports the TV station News4Jax.
“We don’t care why she left. We don’t care what’s happened,” Scarlet Frisina told the TV station. “We just want to know that she’s safe.”
Smith notes that Caitlyn is still a minor. “As a parent, any time my child’s not in my presence, I feel they’re in danger. She should be with her parents or guardian. She is not,” he says. “So therefore I consider her to be in danger.”
He adds, however, “we have no indication that Rian has kidnapped her or is holding her against her will, and we do not believe that he will harm her. But she is still a juvenile and needs to be home with her family.”
The Columbia County School District has suspended Rodriguez, and restricted his contact with any students while the investigation is under way, according to a statement from the district obtained by PEOPLE.
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“She’s intelligent. She’s athletic. She has a big heart,” Caitlyn’s mother said. “We just can’t imagine what in the world is going on.”
Speaking to her daughter, she said, “We want you to let us know that you’re OK. We want you to let someone know that you’re OK. We want to hear your voice, baby girl. And we want you to come back home.”
Anyone with further information is asked to contact the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office at 386-719-2005.