'Neighborhood Impacted' As Search For Missing Teen Continues

COLUMBIA, Tenn. - The nationwide search for 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas and the former high school teacher she's believed to be with remained active and ongoing. 

Tad Cummins, the 50-year-old suspect in the AMBER ALERT, has been facing charges of sexual contact with a minor and kidnapping. 

Randall Scott, a former Columbia police officer, lives next door to Cummins on Haven Drive. He said the neighborhood has been impacted following the details of his allegations. 

"Everyone in the neighborhood is basically in shock. Mr. Cummins has always been very respectful and appeared to be very dedicated and devoted to his family, job, and church," Scott told NewsChannel 5. 

However, like many close to both families, Scott has also been pleading for Cummins to return with Thomas safely. As a former officer, he has feared for their condition and what choices Cummins will make as time becomes crucial.

"Turn yourself in and let the judicial system get in motion," Scott said. "Everyday that he's a fugitive, his situation gets worse everyday. He can run, but he cannot hide."

Thomas was dropped off at a local Shoney's and was later reported missing by her parents last Monday. Officials with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation believed Cummins, who is armed with two handguns, kidnapped her. 

Cummins was fired as a Maury County teacher at the same school Thomas goes to in the wake of an ongoing investigation into alleged inappropriate contact he had with the teenager earlier this year. 

Several reports from the TBI said Cummins had been abusing his role as a teacher to groom Thomas who was described as being vulnerable in order to lure and possibly sexually exploit her. 

Thomas comes from a family of ten children. Her mother has been facing felony child abuse charges.

In a press conference on Friday, Jill Cummins, the wife, pleaded for her husband to come back

"Tad this is not you. This is not who you are. We can help you get through this...your family wants their Poppy back. Please do the right thing and turn yourself into police and bring Beth home," Jill Cummins said.

On Saturday, Thomas' family and friends held a vigil praying for her safe return. Her father and several other loved ones spoke up asking for everyone's continued prayers and help to track the two down. 

Earlier this week, the TBI released a timeline of events:

  • APPROXIMATELY 7:30-7:45 AM CST: A friend of Elizabeth Thomas dropped Thomas off at the Shoney’s in Columbia, Tennessee.
  • 8:32 AM CST: Surveillance video appears to show Tad Cummins at the nearby Shell station, fueling his Nissan Rogue.
  • 12:41 PM CST: The Maury County Sheriff’s Department entered the child as ‘missing’ in NCIC, the nation’s law enforcement internal communications database.
  • 3:06 PM CST: Information places Thomas in the area of Decatur, Alabama.

Tuesday, March 14th:

  • 3:49 PM CST: The Maury County Sheriff’s Department officially requested an alert.
  • 4:18 PM CST: TBI issued an Endangered Child Alert.
  • 4:49 PM CST: The Maury County Sheriff’s Department secures the warrant for Cummins, charging him with one count of sexual contact with a minor.
  • 5:53 PM CST: Due to the warrant being placed against Cummins, TBI upgraded its alert to an AMBER ALERT.

Currently, there have been no credible sightings. Officials asked anyone with information on where she could be to call the Maury County Sheriff's Office at 931-375-8654 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND (1-800-824-3463).

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