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Family pleads for safe return of missing teen

Family pleads for safe return of missing teen

The bureau has been searching for the blond-haired student and 50-year-old Maury County Schools health teacher Tad Cummins since March 13.

"We still [have a lack of] information, lack of quality leads and a lack of quantity leads", Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman Josh DeVine says of the disappearance of Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas. AMBER alerts have been issued throughout the state as well as Alabama.

Her former teacher, Tad Cummins, 50, is allegedly shown on surveillance footage from a gas station near the restaurant at about 8:30 a.m. filling up his silver Nissan Rogue, the vehicle in which authorities believe he is traveling in with the teenager. They've had no confirmed sightings, which investigators said is odd. Cummins is wanted on charges of sexual contact with and a minor and aggravated kidnapping, the TBI said.

He began teaching at Culleoka Unit School in 2011, according to school records obtained by NBC News, and taught Thomas' freshman forensics class.

Investigators uncovered a troubling pattern of behavior they say indicates Cummins had been using his role as Elizabeth's teacher for some time to manipulate her in "an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her".

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On February 3, Thomas was again spotted again in his class. Three days later, Cummins was suspended without pay.

James Thomas said he is protective of his little sister, Elizabeth.

An attorney for Elizabeth's father told media a student saw Cummins kissing Elizabeth on January 24.

The school system didn't suspend Cummins until February 6, the day that a letter from the father's attorney was hand-delivered to Maury County school officials. "The low number of tips, combined with the limited resources Cummins is believed to have in his possession, leads investigators to believe he may be keeping her out of view of the general public". He didn't just steal her from me.

Cummins' wife also spoke out, hoping to reach her husband, to encourage him to turn himself in. You are 15 and he is a [n] old man who shouldn't have done this. "I'm just asking him to leave her somewhere safe and let us get her back home", he said.

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"Tad, this is not you". She was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings, authorities said.

Cummins is believed to be armed with two handguns and to have planned the abduction, which reportedly took place after Thomas's friend drove her to a restaurant in the area.

Cummins is described as white, 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Anyone who provides information leading to Cummins' arrest will be eligible for a $1,000 reward.

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