Massive manhunt for gun-wielding teacher who abducted 15-year-old student

March 20, 2017 8:30 am

A massive manhunt is underway for Mary Thomas and her schoolteacher. Photo / The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

The father of a teenage girl who disappeared with an armed, 50-year-old teacher was determined his daughter would return home after authorities issued two Amber Alerts saying she could be ‘anywhere’.
Authorities believe Elizabeth Thomas, 15, of Maury County, Tennessee, was kidnapped on Monday by Tad Cummins, who may have lured the girl to sexually abuse her. 
At a vigil for his daughter on Saturday night, Anthony Thomas said: “What Tad did, he stole my daughter from me, but Maury County is a big community. He didn’t just steal from me, he stole from the whole community.
But he remained hopeful, saying: “We are going to get her back. Please help bring her home.”
At the vigil on Saturday, Thomas’ family members pleaded for her return.
Her sister cried and said Thomas completed their family of 10 children. She had a message for the 15-year-old and said: “I want you to come home, because we all love you. I want to see you again.”
The nationwide search for Thomas and Cummins has now entered its seventh day.
Cummins, who faces charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, has been added to the state’s Top 10 Most Wanted list.
The former health teacher at the Culleoka Unit School allegedly met Thomas through the local chapter of HOSA, an international student organisation that promotes career opportunities in the health care industry.
Cummins was suspended in February after he was caught kissing the young student, and has since been fired.
Authorities in Tennessee released surveillance video from a gas station showing the final sighting of the married teacher who filled up his SUV before disappearing with Thomas.
Video from the Shell gas station near a Shoney’s in Columbia shows Cummins pulling up in his silver Nissan Rogue at 8.35am on Monday morning (local time).
The 50-year-old is seen getting out of his car and filling up, before driving off about four minutes later.
Thomas was last seen being dropped off at the same Shoney’s eatery by her friend at 8am. Her parents reported her missing later in the day.
Thomas was last pinpointed in Decatur, Alabama, on Monday at 3.06pm, but the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said there have been “no credible sightings” since.
“It’s absolutely important that everyone in this nation know about these individuals because frankly, they could be anywhere right now,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman Josh DeVine told Fox 17 Nashville.
“We’ve amped up our language because we really need the public to know that this young girl is in danger.”
According to TBI’s second Amber Alert, the investigation into the alleged abduction has revealed “a troubling pattern” by Cummins.
It suggested the married father and grandfather “may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom this vulnerable girl for some time in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her.”

Cummins in the weeks before he vanished with the teenager. Photo / The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Investigators said Cummins, who is believed to be armed with two handguns, had secured a $4,500 title loan for a personal vehicle just days before his disappearance.
The FBI has now joined the search and on Thursday evening a nationwide BOLO, or a be on the look out alert, was issued for both Cummins and Thomas.
The TBI said Saturday: ‘The low number of tips, combined with the limited resources Cummins is believed to have in his possession, leads investigators to believe he may be keeping her out of view of the general public.
“For example, he potentially may have them sleeping in the vehicle or Cummins may have driven them far away from Tennessee to a rural community.
“Having now been on the run for more than five days, Cummins may have taken her, frankly, anywhere.”
The teenager is described as being 5-foot-5, weighing 54kg, with blonde hair and hazel eyes. She was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings.
Cummins is described as 6 feet tall, with brown hair, brown eyes, and weighing 90kg.
The former health science teacher at Culleoka Unit School, is carrying two handguns and is driving a silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee plates 976ZPT.
On his Twitter account, Cummins describes himself, in part, as a ‘Jesus freak,’ husband, father and grandfather.
In recent weeks, an Instagram account under Cummins’ name posted several quotes about love. His last post six days ago stated: “It’s a beautiful day to start.”
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