NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Thursday it “remains extremely concerned” for the 15-year-old girl at the center of a statewide AMBER Alert.
Authorities say their investigation has revealed a “troubling pattern of behavior” from Tad Cummins, 50, who “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.”
Cummins reportedly picked up Elizabeth Thomas, 15, at the Shoney’s in Columbia on Monday. Her family reported her missing hours later.
The TBI says it has received around 125 leads in the case, a number the bureau says is “shockingly low.”
Agents believe Cummins and Thomas are likely out of the general public view or outside the original net cast across the southeast to notify the public about their disappearance.
A nationwide BOLO, or a be on the look out alert, was issued late Thursday for both Cummins and the teen.
“Having last been seen on Monday morning, the individuals could, frankly, be anywhere,” the TBI said in a press release.
The FBI has been called in to help with the search, according to Maury County District Attorney Brent Cooper.
Officials have released a timeline of events they say places Cummins and Thomas in the same vicinity just before they disappeared:
Monday, March 13
7:30-7:45 a.m. – A friend of Elizabeth Thomas dropped her off at the Shoney’s in Columbia, Tennessee
8:32 a.m. – Surveillance appears to show Tad Cummins at nearby Shell gas station, filling up his Nissan Rogue
12:41 p.m. – Maury County Sheriff’s Office enters the child as “missing” in the nation’s law enforcement internal communications database
3:06 p.m. – Information places Elizabeth Thomas in Decatur, Alabama
Tuesday, March 14
3:49 p.m. – Maury County Sheriff’s Office officially request an alert from the TBI
4:18 p.m. – TBI issues Endangered Child Alert
4:49 p.m. – Maury County Sheriff’s Office secures warrant charging Tad Cummins with one count of sexual contact with a minor
5:53 p.m. – Due to the warrant against Tad Cummins, TBI upgrades it’s alert to an AMBER Alert
Authorities previously confirmed Cummins is a former teacher at Culleoka Unit School and currently faces charges connected to an alleged sexual interaction between him and Thomas at the school.
The school district suspended Cummins when the allegations surfaced and terminated his employment Tuesday.
“As part of its investigative work, the TBI continues to embark on an effort to understand the action of Cummins in the weeks leading up to the AMBER Alert,” the bureau said.
For example, several days before their disappearance, Cummins secured a title loan on his SUV, netting $4,500 in cash.
The TBI wants to hear from anyone who had any interaction with him or Thomas before they disappeared.
She is a 15-year-old white female with blonde hair and hazel eyes. She is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings.
Tad Cummins is a 50-year-old white male who is 6 feet tall and weighs approximately 200 pounds. He has brown hair and eyes.
He is believed to be armed with two handguns and driving a silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee tag 976-ZPT.
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.
A prayer gathering for Elizabeth will be held at Riverwalk Park in Columbia Saturday night at 7 p.m.