NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – While more than 1,000 tips have poured in to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, an AMBER Alert remains in effect for Elizabeth Thomas and her former teacher Tad Cummins.
Authorities held a joint press conference Tuesday where they stressed the relationship between Thomas and Cummins was not a romance.
“Grooming, because that is exactly what was going on. You had a 50-year-old educated man who was obviously trying to convince this venerable 15-year-old girl that being in a relationship with him was the right thing to do,” said Cooper.
Thomas’ family attorney said he believes the 15-year-old may not have voluntarily gone along with Cummins when they went missing.
“We received one report that literally the day that she went missing, that she told they young girl who was taking her to Shoney’s to take me back home, that she was having second thoughts and that didn’t happen,” said Jason Whatley the family attorney.
One of Thomas’ siblings is also saying that in the days leading up to when she went missing she said she was scared of Cummins.
“She was manipulated into this position, and that is the best case scenario. Worst case is she didn’t want to go at all and she is taken,” explained Whatley.
New interviews conducted by investigators show that Thomas was confused and very scared before she went missing.
Those investigators also said Tuesday they learned Cummins lied about his life experiences to his students, saying he was a former FBI and CIA agent and had travelled the world.
Thomas’ family attorney said he also told students he had a place in Central America.
“We’ve received word that he used to brag to students that he had a place in Honduras, when things got bad in Columbia. These are things he spoke to students about at school,” Whatley told News 2.
The TBI is also urging people who have relatives in Mexico to share Thomas’ picture on social media in hopes to spread the word far and wide.
DA Cooper said Tuesday that Mexican law enforcement was notified of the AMBER Alert for Thomas. And while investigators say they don’t have any substantial tips that lead them to believe the two have crossed the border, but they are not ruling anything out.
“Could he be out of the country? Again, we will defer to law enforcement who say, yes, he could be. Now I want to be very careful. We want the public in America to remain vigilant in looking for them because maybe Tad wants us to believe he is out of the country,” Cooper noted.
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’s believed to be armed with two handguns and was last seen driving a Silver Nissan Rogue with TN license plate 976ZPT. Anyone who spots the SUV and can verify the license plate should call 911.
Cummins faces kidnapping in the AMBER Alert case and is also charged with sexual contact with a minor after he allegedly kissed Thomas at school earlier this year.
If you have information on Thomas or Cummins, call the Maury County Sheriff’s Office at 931-388-5151 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.