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Tennessee police seek help from public in kidnapping case

Reuters

(Reuters) - Tennessee law enforcement on Monday asked local residents in rural areas to assist in the search for a former high school teacher accused of abducting a 15-year-old student outside a restaurant and disappearing with her a week ago.

There have been no credible sightings of Tad Cummins, 50, who is believed to be armed with two hand guns and is wanted on charges of aggravated kidnapping and having sexual contact with a minor, said Josh DeVine, a spokesman from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

"In the name of due diligence, the TBI would like to encourage property owners, especially in rural areas to search their grounds for these individuals, the vehicle or any sign of suspicious activity," DeVine said in a news conference on Monday.

Cummins, who is married, was fired from his Maurey County high school teaching job on Tuesday after being accused of having an inappropriate relationship with student Beth Thomas, according to the TBI.

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Thomas was last seen Monday of last week before 8 a.m. CT when a friend dropped her off at a Shoney's family-style restaurant parking lot in Columbia, Tennessee, about 45 miles south of Nashville.

Video surveillance footage showed Cummins fueling his silver Nissan Rogue at a nearby gas station minutes later, investigators said.

Despite receiving over 450 tips, there have been no credible sightings of the two, DeVine said, leading investigators to believe they could be "far away from Tennessee" and in a remote area. On Saturday, state investigators said they last traced Cummins and Thomas to Alabama.

DeVine also asked for officials at campgrounds and parks to search their properties for Thomas and Cummins.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Bernard Orr)