-- Days after a missing Florida teenage girl was allegedly found hundreds of miles away from home with a 27-year-old high school soccer coach, she stood between her parents at a news conference today.
Caitlyn Frisina, 17, was found safe Friday in a car in Syracuse with Rian Rodriguez, who is a family friend and assistant soccer coach at her Florida high school, authorities said. She had last been seen at home six days earlier.
The teenager, who has since been reunited with her parents, silently stood between them at today's news conference in Columbia County, Florida, holding her father's hand and linking arms with her mother.
"We are so thankful and blessed to have our beautiful daughter ... back with us," said Caitlyn Frisina's mother, Scarlett Frisina. "We're looking forward to a very merry Christmas"
Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter said he's proud of the teen for coming to the news conference.
Hunter said he believes the teen “was influenced by someone who was in control, was in a supervisory role. That shouldn't be. She’s got a lot of growing up to do even though she’s a very strong young lady.”
Meanwhile, Rodriguez is being held in New York on a Florida warrant for alleged custodial interference, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said.
He appeared in front of an Onondaga County Court judge this morning where he was appointed an attorney. Rodriguez was also informed of the charges and chose to waive his extradition to Florida, where authorities have two weeks to pick him up.
The incident began Nov. 26 when Caitlyn Frisina's parents reported her missing. She had last been seen at her home the night before.
Caitlyn Frisina and Rodriguez were spotted on surveillance cameras in Georgia and then at a pawn shop in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Scarlett Frisina called friends of her missing daughter and "discovered she is possible in a relationship with her assistant soccer coach Rian Rodriquez," according to an affidavit.
A friend of Caitlyn Frisina's sent a message to Scarlett Frisina saying the missing teen "hooked up with Rian and he worked his way into her life," the affidavit said.
Rodriguez allegedly wanted to leave the country with the teen "and she didn’t know how to get out of it," the affidavit said. "She said she was scared and she didn’t know what to do."
Hunter today credited the "observant" trooper who found them after spending his shift looking for the missing duo.
Rodriguez was suspended from his coaching job pending the investigation, according to a statement from Lex Carswell, superintendent of Columbia County Schools.