The Tennessee teen and her former teacher who vanished more than two weeks ago after the pair was caught kissing earlier this month have been spotted at a Walmart with altered appearances, the first confirmed sighting of the pair since they vanished more than two weeks ago, according to reports.
Elizabeth Thomas, 15, and Tad Cummins, 50, were seen at a Walmart on East I-240 Service Road in Oklahoma City, Okla., on March 15, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations said.
Thomas appeared to have dyed her hair dark red, while Cummins’ beard was also darkened in what may have been an attempt to alter his appearance, surveillance images released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) show.
Cummins used cash to purchase various food items, but did not purchase anything else of significance, investigators said, noting they were still trying to determine what vehicle the pair was traveling in.
The surveillance images came from a Walmart store about 700 miles from Maury County, Tenn., where Thomas was last seen before disappearing on March 13, and are the first images obtained by the TBI since Cummins allegedly picked up the teen after she was dropped off by a friend at a local Shoney’s restaurant, officials said.
Cummins and Thomas were allegedly caught having “inappropriate contact” earlier this year, when another student saw them kissing in his classroom on January 23.
Both the teacher and student denied the incident, and Thomas was removed from Cummins’ class. They were also 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 fired the day after he and Thomas disappeared.
In the days before he allegedly kidnapped Thomas, Cummins is believed to have researched teen marriage and about his Nissan Rogue in an effort to learn if any of the car’s features could be tracked by law enforcement, authorities said.
Brent Cooper, the district attorney for Maury County, said it’s possible that Cummins may have fled the country with Thomas, telling ABC News that the man is religious and familiar with missionary work.
“He could easily blend into that kind of culture,” Cooper said, noting that Cummins had previously invented a past for himself to appear more interesting to his students.
“He was kind of brainwashing all the kids into thinking he was something he wasn’t,” including a former FBI and CIA agent, Cooper said. “I’m sure all that played into Elizabeth’s feelings toward him. It was a complete deception.”
As of Friday, the TBI has received more than 1,200 tips from across the country. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND, or to call 911 immediately if Cummins’ vehicle is spotted.