Police believe the teen is with 50-year-old Tad Cummins, a former teacher in Maury County. He’s facing charges in connection with an alleged sexual interaction with Thomas, who was a student at the school where he taught, according to the news station.
Maury County Public Schools in a statement cited by the news station said the teacher was suspended as soon as it learned of the allegations.
“The district does not tolerate any manner of behavior that is alleged in this incident and will take swift action to remove parties from school campuses who are involved with investigations of this type.”
Cummins was officially fired as the Culleoka Unit School’s health science teacher on Tuesday. He’d worked at the school since 2011.
Surveillance video released late Wednesday night sees Cummins filling up his Nissan Rogue with gas just before picking up Thomas at the Shoney’s.
Surveillance cameras caught the pair travelling together in Cummins silver colored Nissan Rogue across state lines in Alabama
On Tuesday, The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations issued a statewide Amber Alert for the missing teen. Alabama law enforcement also issued a missing person’s alert that same day. Since issuing the alert, authorities have received 80 leads, though none have brought them to Thomas.
On Monday afternoon, around 3 p.m., detectives placed the pair in Decatur, Ala. Neither she nor Cummins have an apparent connection to the area.
Police said Cummins is likely armed with two handguns. Detectives, at this stage, are not sure whether Thomas was taken against her will, though they do believe she is in extreme danger, WSFA reported.
Thomas’ family expressed their grief through a spokesperson and begged anyone with information on their daughter to speak to authorities.
“At this point the young lady is under the spell, at least we presume, of another person,” family spokesman Jason Whatley told WKRN. “We are concerned she is in a very unsafe situation.
“There’s no way to describe the emotion and frankly the fear the family has at this point. They’re desperate for information that leads to the whereabouts of this child.”
Thomas was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings. She is 5-foot-5 and weighs about 120 pounds, with blonde hair and hazel eyes.
A neighbor of Tad Cummins, Randall Scott, expressed surprise to WKRN that he was involved in the sordid situation.
Scott said he knows Cummins as a husband, father and grandfather: “Conversation I had with Mr. Cummins was always respectful and he appeared to be very dedicated and devoted to his family and his church” .
“He never made a sexual or derogatory remark about anyone at any time anywhere. Every conversation was pleasant. It is surprising to me – his academic level, a teacher – I’m surprised. He would take the situation to this level knowing the law as educated as he is. If Mr. Cummins is watching, I’d tell him to turn himself in – let the judicial system take its course.”
Cummins is described as 6 feet tall and 200 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.
He was last spotted driving a silver Nissan Rogue with the Tennessee license plate 976ZPT. Anyone with information is asked to call the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.