Missing teen, ex-teacher spotted at Oklahoma Walmart 2 days after disappearance

Courtesy: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

(ABC) — A former teacher and the 15-year-old student he allegedly kidnapped were spotted at a Walmart in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, two days after they disappeared, officials said Friday.

After receiving a tip late Thursday, investigators obtained surveillance images showing 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas and 50-year-old Tad Cummins at the store the afternoon of March 15, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.

The Walmart surveillance images showed Cummins “with an altered appearance to darken his hair,” the TBI said.

“The same images show Elizabeth may currently have red hair,” the TBI added.

Cummins used cash to buy food at the Walmart but he didn’t buy “anything else of significance,” the TBI said. “Efforts to determine what vehicle they were traveling in remain ongoing.”

It’s the first confirmed sighting of the pair since Cummins was accused of kidnapping Elizabeth on March 13.

Cummins, who was fired one day after the alleged kidnapping, is wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. An Amber Alert has been issued for Elizabeth.

The TBI said it has received more than 1,200 tips as of this morning. Josh DeVine, a TBI spokesman, said Tuesday the TBI was “optimistic” about the outcome of the case, saying it takes only one lead “to turn this thing around.”

The TBI said that Cummins “may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom [the teen] … in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her.”

One of Elizabeth’s schoolmates reported seeing her and Cummins kiss in his classroom on Jan. 23, according to a school district investigative report, but both denied the claim. A school report from January reads that neither one “admitted to behaving inappropriately towards the other.”

Cummins, a married father and grandfather, researched teen marriage online, specifically the age of consent, according to law enforcement officials.

An attorney for the Thomas family, Jason Whatley, told ABC News last week that Cummins “preyed on her.”

“She is under his spell, and she is being controlled by him, and that is what is so scary,” Whatley said.

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