THE LATEST: TBI gives update on AMBER Alert

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MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has added Tad Cummins to the state’s Top 10 Most Wanted list as they continue searching for a missing 15-year-old girl and the man believed to have taken her.

Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas has been missing since 3/13/17

Authorities believe Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas may be in the company of 50-year-old Tad Cummins. A warrant has been issued for Cummins for Sexual Contact with a Minor and during Friday’s news conference, Maury County District Attorney Brent Cooper added a charge for aggravated kidnapping, which is a Class B Felony.

Tad Cummins

Cooper stated that if Tad Cummins voluntarily releases Elizabeth Thomas, it will weigh in his favor.

Investigators said Thomas was last seen Monday March 13, at approximately 8:00 a.m. at a Shoney’s in Columbia, Tenn. A friend dropped her off at that time. Her parents reported her missing later that day.

The TBI said investigators placed Thomas in Decatur, Ala. around 3:06 p.m. March 13, however neither she nor Cummins has any connection to that area. Since then, efforts to identify their exact location have proven unsuccessful.

Investigators have since received more than 1000 leads; none of which has produced any credible sightings of either individual. “Our concern is growing by the moment. We want her home. We want him in custody. We’ve received about [1000] tips into TBI but none has produced a credible sighting,” said TBI Spokesman Josh DeVine.

They believe the low number of tips means they are likely our of the view of the general public or outside the southeast where most of the news coverage has been. “Having last been seen on Monday morning [March 13], the individuals could, frankly, be anywhere,” said investigators.

“We’ve received a shockingly low number of leads in connection to this Amber alert. Which leads us to believe one of two things: either these individuals are outside of the public view or they are outside of the original net that we cast which was law enforcement and the public primarily across the Southeast. With that in mind we need more tips. I know when we have these missing kids situations it can feel like for folks at home, “What do I do? What can I do?” That’s not my community. Those aren’t my people. Most of us these days have social media networks. To that end, the TBI has this graphic. It’s on our Facebook page.”

“If you happen to be anywhere in this country driving and happen to find yourself behind that silver Nissan Rogue, 2015, with the TN license plate 976 ZPT call 911. In that kind of situation time is of the absolute essence,” said DeVine.

Tad Cummins’ wife, Jill Cummins made a statement during a news conference on March 17. “Like so many of you I’ve been deeply troubled by what’s happened in the past few days. I certainly can’t begin to think why this has occurred. I do know one thing, I had no idea my husband was involved with anything that could lead to all of this. My heart breaks for the family of Beth Thomas. I want her home just as much as the rest of you but I’m also very worried about Tad.”

“Tad, this is not you,” she pleaded to her husband. “This is not who you are.  We can help you get through this. No matter how far you’ve gone or what’s happening now, God’s grace is sufficient for you and he wants you to come home. Your family wants their poppy back. Please do the right thing and turn yourself into police and bring Beth home.”

A new video of Elizabeth Thomas teaching her brother to sew has surfaced. Please watch for an example of Elizabeth Thomas’s voice:

The TBI has been able to develop the following timeline of the events:

Monday, March 13th:
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.

Wednesday, March 15th:
District Attorney  the details of the incident for which Cummins now faces a charge is connected to an alleged interaction between Cummins and Thomas at the school where he taught and where she was a student.

Friday, March 17th :

District Attorney Brent Cooper confirmed they have added added a charge for aggravated kidnapping, which is a Class B Felony.

The school district suspended Cummins when the allegations surfaced and terminated his employment Tuesday.

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.