(Reuters) – Tennessee police are searching for a former high school teacher accused of luring a 15-year-old student into his car outside of a restaurant and disappearing with the girl earlier this week, investigators said on Saturday.
Tad Cummins, 50, who is believed to be armed with two hand guns, was placed on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s top 10 “most wanted” list on Friday on charges of aggravate kidnapping and having sexual contact with a minor.
Cummings, 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, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.
“The 50-year-old may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom this vulnerable young girl for some time in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her,” the bureau said.
Thomas was last seen on Monday just before 8 a.m. CT when a friend dropped her off at a Shoney’s family-style restaurant parking lot in Columbia, Tennessee, a city about 45 miles south of Nashville.
Video surveillance footage shows Cummins fueling up his silver Nissan Rogue at a nearby gas station minutes later, investigators said.
State investigators said they last traced Cummins and Thomas to Alabama, but believe the pair has since traveled to a remote area and are hiding out.
At a news conference on Friday, Cummins’ wife pleaded with her husband to turn himself in to police.
“Tad this is not you. This is not who you are,” Jill Cummins said. “Your family wants their papi back. Please do the right thing, and turn yourself into the police and bring Beth home.”
Local District Attorney Brent Cooper told the news conference Thomas had a difficult life and was especially vulnerable to being manipulated.
Two Amber Alerts have been issued for the teenager, but investigators say they have received a “shockingly low” number of tips. A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Cummins’ capture.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Dan Grebler)