A Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old girl with whom he has allegedly been romantically involved may have bought women’s hair dye days before the pair disappeared, according to surveillance footage released by investigators.
Elizabeth Thomas, 15, has not been seen since she asked a friend to drop her off at a local Shoney’s restaurant on the morning of March 13, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations said.
Tad Cummins, who used to teach health science at her school in Maury County, allegedly picked up the teen before she went missing.
The 50-year-old man was terminated from his position after school officials found he had “inappropriate contact” with Thomas at the school earlier this year, the TBI said.
Surveillance video taken at a local Wal-Mart days before Thomas’ disappearance showed Cummins apparently looking at an item that could help their alleged getaway.
The footage released by TBI on Monday appeared to show Cummins walk down an aisle of women’s products and leave that section of the store with a box of women’s hair dye.
It was not immediately clear if he purchased the item.
Authorities also released the last known image taken of Thomas before she disappeared.
The teen was wearing an oversized flannel shirt, black leggings and sneakers.
On the morning of her disappearance, Thomas posted on Instagram referencing Beauty and the Beast, remarking, “Every beauty needs her beast to protect her from everything but him.”
James Thomas, the teen’s older brother, told Inside Edition on Monday that his little sister is a big fan of Disney princess films, saying, “She has always been into Disney princesses and Beauty and the Beast just came out. I do believe [Cummins] has some control over her.”
Thomas may not have intended to spend such a lengthy time with Cummins, having reportedly told one of her siblings that if she wasn’t home by 6 p.m. that day to call the police.
“She's a high school freshman. He was a teacher accused of kidnapping her. Let's find her now!” TBI spokesman Josh DeVine wrote on Twitter.
A warrant has been issued for Cummins’ arrest on charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, the TBI said.
Cummins is believed to be armed with two handguns and could be driving a silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee tag 976-ZPT.
On Friday he was added to the state’s Top 10 Most Wanted list.
Officials asked property owners, especially in rural areas, to search their grounds for the pair, the vehicle or any signs of suspicious activity.
“The individuals could be anywhere, and the TBI continues to urge national vigilance in the ongoing effort to locate the missing girl and apprehend her alleged abductor,” said in a news release.
As of Monday, the TB had received more than 450 leads.
“The lack of confirmed sightings, however, continues to lead TBI to believe Cummins could have Thomas hidden from view of the general public or far away from Tennessee,” the TBI said.
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND, or to call 911 immediately if Cummins’ vehicle is spotted. There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to Cummins’ capture.