COLUMBIA, Tn.– The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation held its first press update in a week. More than 1100 tips across the country have come in, but after 14 days Elizabeth Thomas is still missing.
TBI Director Mark Gwyn wants to remind everyone that Elizabeth is the victim. Some have speculated she went willingly with Cummins. But Director Gwyn insists Elizabeth is a child, and Cummins manipulated her.
“This is not a fairy tale. This is a case of kidnapping,” he said.
Investigators want to stress Elizabeth is just 15-years-old. A child. Tad Cummins is a 50-year-old man. This should not be a case of victim blaming. The TBI said no matter what happens between the two, this is a crime.
“She’s a high school freshman. He’s a former teacher. This was manipulation, solely to benefit Tad Cummins,” said Gwyn.
He said they remain committed to doing whatever it takes to rescue her, saying, “Right now Elizabeth may not realize she’s a victim. But she is.”
Investigators stress this is not a romance. Instead, District Attorney General Brent Cooper said Cummins was grooming her.
“Obviously trying to convince this 15-year-old girl that being in a relationship with him was the right thing to do,” said Cooper.
Gwyn thinks at some point, whatever hold Cummins has over Elizabeth will sour.
“She’s having to leave her family and friends. For a 15-year-old that can be traumatic,” he said.
Their message to Cummins is that he has the power to do the right thing.
“To answer the prayers of your family, of your community, and so many people across the country and bring Elizabeth home,” said Gwyn.