UPDATE APRIL 20, 2017: Former Middle Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins has been arrested in northern California and Elizabeth Thomas, the 15-year-old girl authorities say he kidnapped, is safe, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Read more here.
ORIGINAL STORY, March 23, 2017:
A man wanted in connection to the disappearance of a Tennessee teen may have been spotted in Texas, authorities there confirmed Thursday afternoon.
Corpus Christi police spokeswoman Gena Pena said police were dispatched about 1 p.m. CT to North Beach after a call from Tennessee was forwarded to the police department.
North Beach is home to the Texas State Aquarium and the Lexington, an aircraft carrier turned museum. Depending on the route traveled, North Beach could be up to 1,000 miles southwest of Columbia, Tenn., Elizabeth Thomas' hometown.
Thomas, 15, was last seen March 13 wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings. The girl's 50-year-old high school teacher Tad Cummins is accused of kidnapping her.
Related:Man searched 'teen marriage' before kidnapping
Police in Corpus Christi went to the area after a call indicated an SUV with a partially-matched license plate may have been seen.
"Units are out there trying to look for the vehicle but nothing has been found," said Pena.
Authorities have been looking for a silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee license plate 976ZPT.
Earlier Thursday, the family of a missing Tennessee girl called the last 10 days the most difficult in their lives in a letter that asked for continued prayers.
"The family has been overwhelmed with the kindness shown to us by the Maury County (Tenn.) community and beyond," the single-page letter released through attorney S. Jason Whatley reads. "We humbly ask that you continue to pray as we do our best to cope with the emotional weight of Elizabeth's abduction."
An AMBER Alert for Thomas was issued March 14.
The family's letter continued: "We are desperate for any information that might lead to our daughter. The information that we need is not only from what people have seen and heard after Elizabeth's disappearance, but also from before. Facts about prior events, especially interaction between Elizabeth and Tad Cummins and statements made by both parties to third parties, may very well contain clues to lead to Elizabeth's return... Elizabeth must be found. Time is of the essence."
A warrant was issued for Cummins' arrest after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation suggested he "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."
Cummins taught at Culleoka Unit School, where Thomas was a student, until he was dismissed March 14. He was initially suspended when the Maury County Sheriff's Department began investigating him for sexual contact with a minor.
District Attorney General Brent Cooper said Cummins will be charged with the aggravated kidnapping of Thomas, in addition to charges he faces for a reported physical interaction that took place with Thomas at the school.
Cummins was added to Tennessee's top 10 most wanted list March 17.
Anyone who provides information leading to his arrest will be eligible for a $1,000 reward.
Beatriz Alvarado writes for the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times; Natalie Neysa Alund writes for The Tennessean. Contributing: Ariana Maia Sawyer, The Tennessean. Follow Beatriz Alvarado and Natalie Neysa Alund on Twitter: @CallerBetty and @nataliealund
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