It’s been one week since Elizabeth Thomas, 15, of Columbia, TN was kidnapped by 50-year-old Tad Cummins, Elizabeth’s health science teacher at Culleoka High School.
Here’s what we’ve learned in the last week:
- Jason Whatley, an attorney for Elizabeth’s father, Anthony Thomas, told media this week that another student saw Cummins kissing Elizabeth on Jan. 24 and an investigation began the next day, continuing until January 31.
- During the investigation, Cummins and Elizabeth were instructed to have no contact. The student was transferred out of Cummins’ class. At that time, there were no findings to substantiate suspension of the teacher.
- Cummins was suspended on Feb 6, the suspension was precipitated by insubordination, reads a statement from the school.
- Cummins’ was officially fired on March 14 as a result of the Amber Alert.
- Elizabeth was last seen at Shoney’s in Columbia, where a friend dropped her off around 7:30-7:45am Monday, March 13th.
- At 8:32am, surveillance video appears to show Cummins at the nearby Shell station, fueling his Nissan Rogue and at 3:06pm on the 13th places Thomas in the area of Decatur, Alabama.
- The TBI has been able to determine Cummins secured a title loan for a personal vehicle several days before his disappearance, netting $4,500 in cash.
- Cummins is believed to be armed with two handguns and driving a silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee tag 976-ZPT.
- Cummins was added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s most-wanted list, facing charges of aggravated kidnapping were added to charges of sexual contact with a minor.
- Authorities believe the two are still in the U.S. but may have changed their appearance
What the authorities and experts are saying:
While over a dozen states have called in tips, none of them have produced any viable information. Because of this, it is believed “they’ve either isolated themselves or something bad has happened”, FBI Special Agent and ABC correspondent Brad Garrett said in an interview with ABC.
Authorities have said it appears Cummins pre-planned this incident and that he was “grooming” Elizabeth.
“Grooming means you target someone who is vulnerable. You look for their needs they’re not getting from home, pay them a lot of attention, tell them they’re beautiful. They use two things. They isolate the person and use secrecy to hold the relationship together,” said Garrett.
“This is a dire situation for this young girl,” said Josh DeVine, spokesperson for the TBI, in a press conference.
Descriptions & Photos
Elizabeth is a 15-year-old white female, with blonde hair, hazel eyes, stands 5’5” and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings.
Cummins is a 50-year-old white man, who stands 6’00” and weighs approximately 200 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes.
The TBI would urge the public to remain vigilant and report any information that may prove beneficial in the ongoing search to 1-800-TBI-FIND. If you spot the vehicle and can verify the license plate to be TN 976-ZPT, call 911 immediately.