COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WRKN) – Elizabeth Thomas has been missing for more than a week. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation continues to provide us with new surveillance photos of them.
But to date, the leads called in have not panned out.
Many people, including the Thomas family, are questioning the timeline of the investigation into Tad Cummins, the now-former teacher accused of kidnapping her.
The 50-year-old was allegedly seen kissing Thomas on Jan. 23. The school says it began investigating the next day.
But the question many are now asking is when the school system notified law enforcement—if they notified them at all.
“We have no idea when law enforcement was notified,” said Jason Whatley, the Thomas family attorney.
“My client was notified by law enforcement on Jan. 31. He didn’t get any official call from the school system at all,” the attorney continued.
First and foremost, Whatley is concerned about Thomas and her being with Cummins.
“A very manipulative child predator. That is how we view him,” he told News 2.
According to the timeline put out by Maury County Schools, the alleged kissing incident happened on Jan. 23. Eight days later on Jan. 31, the school system said they were notified by the Maury County Sheriff’s Office that Cummins was the subject of a criminal investigation.
At that time, school officials reportedly turned over all known information and documentation about the alleged incident, which was still being investigated by school officials.
Sources told News 2 that even though SROs work in the school, they were not initially brought into the investigation.
The attorney’s reaction is, “Of course law enforcement should have been notified.”
PHOTOS: AMBER Alert for Elizabeth Thomas
News 2 called the school board and physically went to see them to ask if they ever contacted the sheriff’s office or police to report a teacher allegedly kissed a 15-year-old girl. As of this time, News 2 has not received a response.
“It does, from the timeline provided by the school, appear as if the school was contacted by law enforcement, not the other way around,” the family attorney said.
News 2 also called, texted, and visited the Maury County Sheriff’s Office, asking for the initial report, hoping to see when law enforcement became aware of the case and who notified them. The sheriff’s office indicated the case is under investigation, and the report was denied.
News 2’s Andy Cordan asked the attorney, “If law enforcement is involved from the 24th, instead of the 31st, it might have made a difference?”
Whatley replied, “Obviously, the what ifs, is something this family has to deal with on a daily basis. Might it have made a difference? We don’t know that, but of course it might have made a difference. It is something we are very concerned about.”
Maury County DA Brent Cooper wouldn’t comment about the timing of law enforcement being notified, but he did tell News 2 that “we can’t begin investigation or prosecution until it’s reported to us.”
Whatley told News 2 their focus is finding Elizabeth Thomas.
“But if you are asking what should have been done from the Thomas family perspective, absolutely a full investigation from the beginning with all the appropriate parties contacted, including the Thomas family, should have been done right away,” the attorney explained.
“And as far as when law enforcement was contacted? We just don’t know,” Whatley stated.
He told News 2 the family is most concerned what is happening with Elizabeth right now.
“Is she okay? Is she being abused? What is the state of mind of Tad Cummins at this point?” Whatley explained. “When a child is abducted, you don’t have a place to put that in your emotional register, and that is what the family is dealing with right now.”
Thomas is a 15-year-old white female, with hazel eyes, stands 5 feet tall and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings.
Cummins is a white male, who stands 6 feet tall, weighs approximately 200 pounds, and 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.
On Friday, the TBI added Cummins to the state’s ‘Top 10 Most Wanted’ list. There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
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.