TENNESSEE (CBS News) – Investigators released new information in the nationwide search for a missing 15-year-old Tennessee girl, Elizabeth Thomas. She was last seen nine days ago.
Detectives believe she was abducted by her former teacher, 50-year-old Tad Cummins. They say that in the days before she disappeared, Cummins searched online to see if police could track his car. He also researched teen marriage.
Investigators believe Cummins convinced Thomas to run away with him. Cummins was fired from his teaching job last week over alleged inappropriate behavior with the teen. Now, her family and friends are hoping she can break away and come back home.
Anthony Thomas made an emotional plea to his daughter, the focus of a nationwide manhunt, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler.
“Izzy please — get away from him, get away from him, run somewhere, tell somebody,” he said.
The 15-year-old has not been seen in nine days. Police believe she is with Cummins.
“Everything that we’re learning about him does nothing to calm our fears and our concerns for her. She is definitely a victim,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Josh Devine said.
A new image provided by investigators shows Cummins and Thomas sitting together at school.
A former forensics teacher, Cummins was caught kissing Thomas by another student in January. While Thomas denied a kiss took place, her parents said school officials did not notify them until a week after the incident.
“He took advantage of her being a new student, new situation and being uneasy, he took advantage of all that,” Anthony Thomas said.
Ashlee Riggins, who says she’s Thomas’ best friend, claims her friend told her she was “falling in love with someone” – but did not realize it was with her teacher.
“I know that you may love him and think that he’s perfect but he’s not,” Riggins said.
The teen’s father is hoping Cummins will heed his urgent message: “You better bring her back.”
Cummins claims to be a black belt and investigators believe he is armed with at least two handguns. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation admits despite more than 600 leads, they have no idea where these two are.