Investigators say that Thomas and Cummins are still believed to be together, and released footage Monday of the married health science teacher buying women's hair dye the week before he and his student disappeared. Culleoka Unit School suspended and then dismissed Tad Cummins, 50, potentially prompting the abduction.
January 31, 2017: Maury County Schools administration was notified by law enforcement that Cummins was the subject of a criminal investigation.
"We were shocked and dumbfounded. We just don't know", Whatley stated. "You think that's going to happen to your neighbor, you don't think that's going to happen to you", she explained.
The missing teen's family noticed around the time she left that her Instagram profile now sports a picture of a ring alongside the word "wife".
Cummins was suspended by the school when the Maury County Sheriff's Department began investigating him for sexual contact with a minor and formally dismissed him on Tuesday over the incident. On Cummins' page, the words "Let's do this" were posted. The 15-year-old remains the subject of a Tennessee AMBER Alert. "This man was an authority figure in her life and he ultimately knows better". Her family conducted a candlelight vigil this weekend, holding out hope they'll see her again.
"Our message to Elizabeth is: We're still coming for you".
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"I felt like it was my fault", she told ABC News.
"She just really likes laughing and joking around with people", she said. "She's a child, she's a victim".
However, Teacher 1 said she never witnessed anything inappropriate, and Cummins' door was always open when students were in his classroom, according to the report. But Whatley says the school waited more than a week to take action. Cummins took out a $4,500 loan days before he disappeared, police said.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said the suspect, Tad Cummins, 50, also did online research about his vehicle "to determine if certain features could be tracked by law enforcement".
Many people were speculating about Cummins' purchase of hair color after surveillance video of the alleged abductor shopping at a Tennessee Walmart was revealed, but TBI says there is not a link to the purchase and his disappearance. He also searched whether his auto had particular features that "could be tracked by law enforcement", ABC News reported. Cummins' was last seen driving a 2015 silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee license plate 976ZPT, but law enforcement officials believe they may have abandoned the SUV.
As of Friday, the TBI said during a news conference that Cummins had been added to the TBI's Top 10 Most Wanted list for kidnapping Thomas.
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.