The last time anyone saw 15-year-old Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas was on March 13.
According to earlier reports, the teen, who goes by Elizabeth “Beth” Thomas, was dropped off at a Shoney’s restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee, by a friend around 8:00 a.m. She never returned home.
Once an Amber Alert was issued, authorities revealed that they believed the teen was with her 50-year-old health teacher, Tad Cummins.
As WKRN reported, Cummins was already facing charges after he was fired from Culleoka Unit School for allegedly having sexual interactions with Thomas.
He was suspended for his inappropriate relationship with Thomas back in February and was officially fired from his job the day after he and Thomas were reported missing.
Maury County Public Schools released a statement explaining Cummins's termination:
Maury County Public Schools suspended the Culleoka Unit School teacher involved in the law enforcement investigation once we were notified of the allegations. Since then, the teacher has been dismissed as a result of the investigation. 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.
According to police, security footage shows Cummins getting gas before picking up Thomas from the restaurant in his silver Nissan Rogue. Authorities believe the 50-year-old is armed with two handguns.
Thomas was reportedly last seen in Decatur, Alabama, on Monday afternoon. It is unknown if Cummins was also spotted in that location.
People who know the former teacher describe him as “always respectful” and someone who is “very dedicated and devoted to his family and his church.”
Now his wife, Jill Cummins, is making a plea of her own.
As People reports, Jill claims that she didn't have a clue that her husband "was involved with anything that could have led to this.” She said during a press conference Friday afternoon:
“Let me speak directly to my husband. Tad, this is not you. This is not who you are. We can help you get through this. No matter how far you’ve gone or what’s happening right now, God’s grace is sufficient for you and He wants you to come home. Your family wants their Papi back. Please do the right thing, and turn yourself into the police and bring Beth home."
“Like so many of you, I’m deeply troubled by what has happened in the past few days. I certainly can’t begin to explain why I think this occurred. But I do know one thing: I had no idea my husband was involved with anything that could have led to this.
My heart breaks for the family of Beth Thomas. I want you home just as much as the rest of you, and I’m also very worried about Tad."
His wife thanked the media for helping both families spread the word about the missing teen and asked that everyone continue to aid in the efforts to bring both Thomas and Cummins home safely.
It is not yet known if Thomas was forced into the teacher's car or if she went willingly. Nonetheless, the Thomas family lawyer, Jason Whatley, told People that the teen is the victim in this situation:
“This is a 15-year-old girl — and if they are together, she has been groomed by a 50-year-old authority figure, so how could we even define ‘willingly’?”
Whatley told WKRN that the family believes Thomas is under a “spell”:
“At this point the young lady is under the spell, at least we presume, of another person. We are concerned she is in a very unsafe situation. There’s no way to describe the emotion and frankly fear the family has at this point. They’re desperate for information that leads to the whereabouts of this child. We are praying desperately for her safe return. She is a great young lady, but more than that, she is a minor who is missing and who possibly in a situation that is dangerous for her.”
Police have described Thomas as five feet, five inches tall, 120 pounds, with blonde hair and hazel eyes. According to WLWT, “she was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings.”
Cummins is six feet tall, 200 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He is believed to be driving a Silver Nissan Rogue with a Tennessee license plate 976ZPT.
Anyone with any information regarding Thomas and Tad Cummins's whereabouts is asked to contact the authorities immediately by calling the Maury County Sheriff’s Office at 931-388-5151 or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) at 1-800-TBI-FIND.