In an update on missing Tennessee teen Elizabeth Thomas, it's reported that she feared being kidnapped by her teacher, Tad Cummins. The 15-year-old has been missing for over a week, and authorities still have no solid leads on where she could be. They believe the high school freshman from Culleoka Unit School was abducted by Cummins, 50.
According to a new report, Elizabeth told her family on the morning she went missing to call police if she wasn't home by 6 p.m. Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas had planned to spend the day with a female friend on March 13, the day she disappeared. Her friend had picked her up from home that morning, and by 12:41 p.m., she was reported as missing by the Maury County Sheriff's Department. The last time she was see was at 7:45 a.m. at a Shoney's restaurant.
Thomas family attorney Jason Whatley explained to People magazine that Elizabeth told one of her siblings to notify authorities if she wasn't back by evening.
"She confided in one of her siblings that if she was not back by 6 p.m. that day and she was to disappear, to call the police."
Authorities have good reason to believe that Elizabeth Thomas is with Tad Cummins, who was a health teacher at Culleoka. He was suspended after he was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with the missing Tennessee girl.
Surveillance video from March 13 shows Cummins putting gas in his car at a local gas station around after 8 a.m. that day. The fuel station was near the Shoney's where a witness last saw Elizabeth. A spokesman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says investigators suspect Cummins picked up Elizabeth after he was at the gas station.
Tennessee teen warned her family to call police if she didn't come home before her teacher allegedly kidnapped her https://t.co/WJAae5UgUz pic.twitter.com/2D53SUVAHF
— People Magazine (@people) March 21, 2017
It's alleged that Cummins had sexual contact with Thomas weeks before kidnapping her. Whatley says the Thomas family believes Elizabeth was "conflicted" about her relationship with him, and that Cummins "groomed" the teen.
"She's 15, he's 50. He had a lifetime of skills in figuring out how to manipulate a child," Whatley said.
He brands the teacher a "predator."
According to TBI, a warrant has been issued for Cummins' arrest for alleged aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. Cummins was allegedly seen by a witness engaging in sexual interaction with Thomas on January 24 at school. The interaction was described as a "peck" when the two were kissing, a student claims. The witness reported the incident to school administrators with Maury County Public School District. The witness confronted the teacher about the kiss, and Cummins said that they were "close and best friends." The student adds that Cummins said he was a "father figure" to Thomas and was trying to help her with issues at home.
Whatley insists that the missing Tennessee girl has a great relationship with her father, who's had custody of her since 2015. The family attorney says that the teacher is looking for a weakness in Elizabeth Thomas, something predators are known for.
"It's horrific. He's looking for vulnerability."
Elizabeth Thomas is still missing. Please RT till she is found. #TNAMBERAlert @MissingKids pic.twitter.com/s5myVCE6EN
— Spring Hill Police (@springhillpdtn) March 20, 2017
After the school district learned of the alleged kiss between Cummins and Thomas, the teen was pulled out of Cummins' forensics class. It wasn't until February 6 that Cummins was suspended from teaching. He was fired from his job last week.
Law enforcement and TBI have received a few hundred tips in the missing Elizabeth Thomas case, but nothing substantial enough to track her whereabouts. Tad Cummins reportedly watched several survivalist shows prior to the kidnapping, which may have provided tips on how to hide without being detected. AMBER alerts have been issued in Tennessee and Alabama. Authorities say that even if a witness calls in about spotting a car with a Tennessee license plate, it can give them enough to work with. Cummins was driving a Silver Nissan Rogue with a Tennessee license plate 976ZPT. He's believed to be "armed and dangerous."
Thomas was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings. She's five feet, five inches tall and weighs 120 pounds with blonde hair and hazel eyes.
Cummins is six feet tall and weighs 200 pounds with brown hair and eyes.
#BREAKING: (PLEASE RETWEET) More photos has been released of the suspect in the Elizabeth Thomas missing case. #AmbeAlert pic.twitter.com/fjbXy4nMvO
— BreakingNewsHQ1 (@BreakingNewsHQ1) March 17, 2017
If anyone sees Elizabeth Thomas or Tad Cummins, they're asked to call the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.
[Featured Image by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation]