Search efforts enter their fifth day Friday as law enforcement continues looking for a 15-year-old Tennessee girl believed to be with a former teacher.
Amber Alerts are in effect in Tennessee and Alabama for Elizabeth Thomas who was last seen being dropped off by a friend at a Shoney’s restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee around 8 a.m. Monday, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Her parents reported her missing later the same day.
Investigators believe Thomas is currently with 50-year-old Tad Cummins, who is considered armed and dangerous.
District Attorney General Brent Coopers confirms Cummins was terminated earlier this week over accusations of sexual misconduct with Thomas at the school where he taught and she was a student.
At a press briefing Thursday, investigators say the investigation reveals a “troubling pattern of behavior” by Cummins, suggesting he may have been abusing his role as a teacher to “groom this vulnerable young girl for some time in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her.”
The TBI has been able to develop the following timeline of the events placing Cummins and Thomas in the same vicinity just prior to their disappearance on Monday:
APPROXIMATELY 7:30-7:45 AM CST: A friend of Elizabeth Thomas dropped Thomas off at the Shoney’s in Columbia, Tennessee.
8:32 AM CST: Surveillance video appears to show Tad Cummins at the nearby Shell station, fueling his Nissan Rogue.
12:41 PM CST: The Maury County Sheriff’s Department entered the child as ‘missing’ in NCIC, the nation’s law enforcement internal communications database.
3:06 PM CST: Information places Thomas in the area of Decatur, Alabama.
Tuesday, March 14th:
3:49 PM CST: The Maury County Sheriff’s Department officially requested an alert.
4:18 PM CST: TBI issued an Endangered Child Alert.
4:49 PM CST: The Maury County Sheriff’s Department secures the warrant for Cummins, charging him with one count of Sexual Contact with a Minor.
5:53 PM CST: Due to the warrant being placed against Cummins, TBI upgraded its alert to an AMBER Alert.
Thomas is described by police as a 5’5″, 120 pound girl with blonde hair and hazel eyes. She was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings. Police say Cummins is a 6 foot tall, 200 pound white male with brown hair and eyes.
Police believe Cummins is armed with two handguns and driving a silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee tag 976-ZPT.
If you have information on Thomas or Cummins, call the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations at 1-800-TBI-FIND. If you spot the vehicle and can verify the license plate to be TN 976-ZPT, call 911.