Romantic emails between missing Tennessee girl and teacher send mixed messages

On Friday, law enforcement officials revealed that missing Tennessee girl, Elizabeth Thomas, and her former teacher, Tad Cummins, shared romantic emails with each at a Columbia high school before they disappeared. The news precedes recent revelations that the teen reportedly didn’t want to see Cummins, and begged a friend to keep her whereabouts hidden.

According to Maury County District Attorney Brent Cooper, the duo would write to each on a school computer and save the emails in draft in attempt to avoid detection. This happened on a number of occasions, but it’s still unclear when and how the email drafts were uncovered.

“If you read them you would immediately recognize you are reading messages between two people who have a romantic interest in each other,” Cooper told local Tennessee news station WAAS-TV on Friday.

For instance, in one particular email, former teacher Cummins complimented Elizabeth on a certain body part. According to Cooper, once Elizabeth read Cummins’ emails, she would delete it from draft and start another draft, responding to him. When Cummins read the girl’s emails, he would delete her draft and begin a new one, continuing the cycle.

READ here for the suspect’s and victim’s descriptions, and who to call if you spot them

The various accounts of the pair’s actions before their disappearance left mixed messages. On Sunday, one of Elizabeth’s friends, Ashlee, said that the missing girl once begged her to tell Cummins she wasn’t around when he arrived at their workplace. Additionally, Elizabeth’s 17-year-old sister told reporters that on the day she disappeared, Elizabeth told her to call the police if she didn’t make it back home by 6 p.m.

The mixed messages could possibly be the result of what’s known as the “grooming process.” According to the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (NAASC), pedophiles will lure minors in initially by fulfilling an emotional need of the victim with excessive attention and flattery.

Once the predator establishes a strong sense of trust with the victim, he’ll begin lowering the victim’s inhibitions. Gradually, as the grooming continues, the predator often starts the abuse, with the threat that if the victim tells someone, the relationship will end. The victim can get caught between being afraid of the suspect, but also afraid of losing the attention and affection that the relationship brings.

Meanwhile, a voice message of Elizabeth talking to her brother was recently revealed. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) asks the public to listen carefully to her voice; appearance can be altered, but voices typically stay the same.

Exclusive Video: We have obtained video of missing Maury County teen, Elizabeth Thomas, from the family.Please share this video in hopes that someone recognizes her voice. Appearances can be altered but voices are distinguishable. The male featured in the video is the older brother of Elizabeth Thomas. #TnAmberAlert#bringelizabethhomeWCN All Rights Reserved Video via Danielle Thomas

Posted by WCN on Sunday, March 26, 2017


Elizabeth remains missing. The investigation is ongoing. Check back with Crime Online’s “Crime Stories with Nancy Grace” later today for an another exclusive interview with lawyer, Jason Whatley, who represents Elizabeth’s father, Anthony Thomas.

[Feature Photo: TBI]