The young Florida mom who went missing earlier this week while picking up her daughter from the child’s father has previously felt "extremely" unsafe around the man, who allegedly told her family after the disappearance that she was acting unusual, her sister told Fox News Digital.
Raeann Carli said her older sister, Cassie, always kept close contact with their father, whom she lived with, and the rest of the family, and was "never one to just disappear." But on Sunday evening, she told her dad she was running out to pick up her four-year-old daughter, Saylor, from the child’s father’s custody and never returned, Carli said during a phone call with Fox News Digital on Thursday.
"When it came time to pick Saylor up, my dad was in his room about to rest and she just kind of popped in, 'Hey, dad, I'll be right back. I'm just running to grab Saylor,’" Raeann, 32, said. "She walked out the door like she would be right back."
Raeann said Cassie usually tried to meet her daughter's father, Marcus Spanevelo, at a public location – typically a Walmart parking lot – but that he had recently been changing the meet-up locations. This time, the pair scheduled to meet in the parking lot of nearby Juana’s Pagodas restaurant.
Cassie’s father then went to sleep, but awoke hours later to discover his daughter had not yet returned.
"Cassie,I’m trying to call you.What’s going on?" he wrote, in a series of text messages provided to Fox News Digital. His first message was sent at 9:40 p.m. Sunday. He then sent a second message that stated: "I’m freaking out case call me as soon as you get this message."
A response came shortly thereafter, and stated: "I’m sorry, car was acting up, and I broke my phone. Marcus is working on it. I will stay at his place tonight. He is paying me some money to do some stuff around his house."
A later message from Cassie’s phone stated, "Let me see if he can get this fixed and I’ll call you."
Cassie’s father then went to sleep for the night. After hearing nothing from his daughter the next morning, he contacted Spanevelo, Raeann Carli explained.
"No answer on the phone," Raeann said, of when her father tried to call Spanevelo. "But then he texted him a long paragraph and said, ‘Yeah, Cassie was having troubles. I was going to help her with her phone, but she ended up getting all upset and acting crazy,'" Raeann went on. Spanevelo did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request seeking comment and information.
Cassie Carli, 37, had just started a new job as lead server at a local restaurant, and was excited about returning early this week, Raeann said.
On Thursday, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson called Carli's disappearance "very concerning" as he revealed that investigators who discovered her car behind Juana’s Pagodas restaurant also found her purse inside.
"There were things in the purse … we don’t think she would just up and leave," Johnson said during a Thursday press conference. He later added: "Usually you don’t go four days without hearing from them, or them using a credit card, cell phone…so yeah, we’re concerned."
Johnson said investigators located Spanevolo – allegedly the last person the woman was with – in Birmingham, Alabama, where detectives questioned him and located Saylor safe.
When asked why Spanevelo would be there, Johnson said he had work in the area. Johnson added that the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office’s entire Major Crimes Unit, which consists of 10 detectives, is working the case.
"We are intent on speaking with him again," Johnson said. He would not discuss Spanevelo’s recollection of events.
The county's top cop said the search for Carli has expanded beyond the state of Florida and the FBI was now involved. The sheriff added that about five or six witnesses had come forward so far, and said investigators are still examining surveillance footage from the area.
A spokesperson for the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office previously said Cassie was last seen in the area of a restaurant called Juana’s Pagodas in Navarre Beach. Her car was located around 11 a.m. Sunday at a boat ramp in the Juana’s parking lot, Raeann Carli said. The family said Saylor remains with her father despite their urgent efforts to gain custody.
Carli is described as being 5-foot-5 inches tall and 150 pounds with blue eyes and blonde, shoulder-length hair. She has pierced ears and a mole on her right cheek.
But Raeann Carli said her sister had previously made a point of meeting Saylor’s father in a public place, and said Cassie had felt "extremely" unsafe around him in the past. At times, their father would accompany her to the custody switch meetings.
"She was very nervous," the concerned sister said.
In at least one instance, Carli said, the man never showed up with the young child and did not return her until two weeks later, after the police had allegedly gotten involved, Raeann recalled. The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s office did not immediately provide Fox News Digital with related records to confirm the detail. Spokespersons for the office instructed Fox News Digital to submit a records request for any information regarding the case or Carli’s history with Spanevelo. The office also did not ime
Spanevelo told Raeann Carli he answered investigators’ questions and would continue to do so, according to a Facebook messenger conversation that was provided to Fox News Digital.
Loved ones and members of the community, including Whitney Sich of nonprofit A Voice for the Voiceless, began their third day of searching on Thursday morning and said they will continue to do so. Sich has since created a Facebook group for those who are interested in getting involved.
As the family continues to hunt for answers, Raeann Carli called it "amazing" to see the support the community has provided.
"I’m overwhelmed by the help and the response we're getting," she said, as she spoke of her sister’s closeness to the community. "I'm not surprised, though."
The sheriff’s office has said the investigation remains "very active." They ask anyone with information to call their Major Crimes Unit at 850-983-1190.
Fox News' Sarah Rumpf contributed to this report.