The Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old girl with whom he is allegedly romantically involved is believed to have researched teen marriage days before they disappeared, officials said.
Investigators combing through former health science teacher Tad Cummins’ computer announced on Tuesday that the 50-year-old man had also carried out online research about his Nissan Rouge in an effort to learn if any of the car’s features could be tracked by law enforcement.
His research came three days before he allegedly picked up 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas after she was dropped off by a friend at a local Shoney’s restaurant, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation [TBI] said.
The pair has not been seen since.
Investigators also released a photo of Thomas and Cummins taken days before they were allegedly caught having “inappropriate contact” earlier this year, an incident that first alerted authorities to the troubling relationship.
In what another student reportedly described as a “peck” on the lips, the teacher and student had allegedly been caught kissing in his classroom on January 23.
Both the teacher and student denied the incident, and Thomas was removed from Cummins’ class and they were told to stay away from each other.
But Thomas was reportedly seen in Cummins’ classroom again on February 3.
Cummins was suspended at that point, and was fired one day after he and Thomas went missing.
As of Tuesday, the TBI said it had received more than 650 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.
Thomas had last been seen wearing an oversized flannel shirt, black leggings and sneakers.
Though Cummins was spotted in a local Wal-Mart days before the alleged abduction shopping for hair dye, investigators said they have been able to determine that purchase was not connected to any plan to change his or Thomas’ appearance.
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. There is a $1,000 reward for information connected to his capture.
Officials asked property owners, especially in rural areas, to search their grounds for the pair, the vehicle or any signs of suspicious activity.
“The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation remains hopeful and committed to its efforts to reunite the young girl with her family, friends, and community, as the search for her and her alleged kidnapper continues,” the TBI said.
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND, or to call 911 immediately if Cummins’ vehicle is spotted.