Parents want all sorts of things for their children, but ultimately, there’s nothing more important than their safety. Simply put, everything after that is secondary.

While no parent is ever completely free of that nagging concern, they’ll find they’re more likely to relax when they know that their kids are responsible and well-behaved. A good child is easier to trust.

That may have seemed like the case for 17-year-old Florida resident Caitlyn Frisina. Yet, when a strange turn of events unfolded, her family couldn’t have been more terrified…

Growing up in the northern Florida town of Lake City, 17-year-old Caitlyn Frisina seemed to be living an ordinary life. She was an attentive student, and her parents, Scarlet and Ward, were known in the community. They owned a local business management consultancy called Flatwoods Forestry.

Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

Caitlyn took her studies seriously at Fort White High School and she was a devout Christian. She loved playing soccer on her school’s team, and she was even a member of Florida’s Elite Soccer Academy.

As a member of the cross country and track teams, she consistently qualified for regional championships and she participated in a number of different extracurricular activities. Even so, soccer was still her favorite activity.

Caitlyn Morgan Frisina / Facebook

Caitlyn wasn’t the only member of her family to feel this way; Ward coached her school’s girls soccer team. At the same time, Caitlyn herself helped serve as referee for the Columbia Youth Soccer Association.

Caityln Morgan Frisina / Facebook

As busy as she was, Caitlyn still found time to help out around the family business, and her parents loved her agreeable behavior and compassionate personality. That’s why it was so shocking that, on November 26, 2017, she disappeared…

Ward Anthony Frisina / Facebook

Somehow, even though Caitlyn’s parents hadn’t seen her that morning, there was no evidence that she had been abducted. In fact, police had reason to believe that the teenage girl simply left her family’s home voluntarily at some point the night before.

Scarlett Parnell Frisina / Facebook

 The single set of footprints outside their home seemed to point to that as well. Right away, people began questioning why Caitlyn would do such a thing. It wasn’t long, however, before they had a clue…

Caitlyn Morgan Frisina / Facebook

It turned out that Caitlyn had stopped in St. Mary’s, Georgia, over 100 miles from her own home, to withdraw $200 at an ATM. Police caught a glimpse of her on closed circuit television (CCTV) as she continued heading north to the Carolinas.

Visit St. Marys, Georgia

At that point, it was determined that she wasn’t alone. The man she was with was identified as 27-year-old Rian Rodriguez, a soccer coach at Caitlyn’s high school. He was considered a close friend of her family. And it got worse…

Columbia County Sheriffs Office

Even before Caitlyn’s unusual disappearance, as early as August 2017, authorities had become suspicious that Rian and Caitlyn were engaged in an inappropriate relationship—though they’d concluded the two were just friends. Were they wrong?

Rian Rodriguez / Facebook

“As far as we [knew], he was just a friend,” Scarlet revealed to the Lake City Reporter in November 2017. Caitlyn’s friends, on the other hand, thought otherwise. They even tipped off the police that there might have been a romantic side to the relationship.

Rian Rodriguez / Facebook

Her parents wanted nothing more than for her to return. “We love her very much,” said Scarlet. “And it doesn’t matter what has happened or where she is. All we’re concerned with is her safety.”

ABC News / YouTube

As the search continued, upsetting evidence was discovered on Caitlyn’s phone—which she’d abandoned before she fled her home—in the form of a series of messages of a sexual nature to Rian. Police began searching for Rian’s 2001 Mercury Sable.

Inside Edition / YouTube

Finally, on the afternoon of December 1, there was a breakthrough: police officer Todd Grant spotted a vehicle matching the description of Rian’s car all the way in Salina, New York, and even went so far as to follow the driver into a parking lot and confront him.

Jason Lawrence / Wikimedia Commons

The driver was Rian, and Caitlyn, who seemed unharmed, was right there with him. Rian was arrested immediately, and his plan was revealed. He claimed he’d accepted a job in Salina, and he wanted to raise enough money to acquire fake papers so he could smuggle Caitlyn with him to Canada.

Iduke / Wikimedia Commons

Rian appeared to be under the impression that Caitlyn was as eager to adopt a new life with him as much as he was, but Caitlyn’s friends were skeptical. “She didn’t know how to get out of it,” one reportedly told police. “And if she did he would mess up her life.”

Caitlyn Morgan Frisina / Facebook

The next day, Caitlyn and her parents were reunited in New York. Her aunt shared pictures of the event online, and it seemed like a touching moment, but there was a lot of work left to do.

Marcy L. Frisina / Facebook

Caitlyn’s family was thrilled and relieved to have her back, but it wasn’t over for the police. “She’s a 17-year-old high school student, who I feel was influenced by someone who was in control, who was in a supervisory role, and that shouldn’t be,” one officer explained.

Scarlet Parnell Frisina / Facebook

Rian, for his part, didn’t likely have a happy ending; he faced charges of interference with child custody, and authorities even considered charging him with kidnapping in addition.

Inside Edition / YouTube

If they could prove there was an inappropriate relationship between Caitlyn and Rian, he would be in even more trouble. Caitlyn was under 18 and he was over 23, and that age difference violated the state’s close-in-age exemptions. Do you think this surveillance footage would be enough?

Caitlyn’s safe now, and that matters more than everything else. Hopefully the healing process goes smoothly—and something is done to ensure young women are never taken advantage of like this again.

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