The family of a high school freshman who was allegedly kidnapped last week by a former teacher pleaded for her return during a candlelight vigil Saturday night.
Catherine Elizabeth Thomas (L), Tad Cummins (R)
An urgent manhunt is underway for a 15-year-old schoolgirl and the former teacher who is feared to have kidnapped her.
Tad Cummins allegedly lured student Mary Catherine Elizabeth 'Beth' Thomas into his car outside a restaurant before disappearing with her, police said.
The 50-year-old, 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.
He is being hunted on charges of aggravate kidnapping and having sexual contact with a minor .
Cummins, who is married, was fired from his teaching job at Maurey County high school on Tuesday after being accused of having an inappropriate relationship with Thomas, investigators said on Saturday.
Thomas was last seen on Monday just before 8am local time 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.
CCTV footage shows Cummins filling up his silver Nissan Rogue at a nearby petrol station minutes later, investigators said.
Catherine Elizabeth 'Beth' Thomas
State investigators said they last traced Cummins and Thomas to Alabama, but believe the pair has since travelled to a remote area and are hiding out.
At a news conference on Friday, Cummins' wife issued an emotional plea to her husband to turn himself in to police.
The wife of a former Tennessee schoolteacher is pleading for her husband to bring the girl home.
Cummins’ wife, Jill Cummins, on Friday asked her husband to turn himself in and bring the teenager home.
“I had no idea my husband was involved in anything that would have led to something like this...I want her home just as much as the rest of you,” Jill said as her family pastor stood beside her, WTVF reports.
She went on to speak to Tad saying, “this is not who you are.”
The teen is one of ten children, and her mother is facing five counts of child abuse, WTVF reports. Investigators believe she was carefully groomed and then brainwashed by Cummins into abandoning her family to be with him.