COLLIERVILLE, TN (WMC) - TBI discredited the sighting of Amber Alert suspect Tad Cummins and his former student, Elizabeth Thomas, after an investigation that lasted almost five hours and spanned Memphis and Collierville on Thursday afternoon.
Around 12:30 p.m., someone reported seeing Cummins and Thomas at the Shell gas station in Collierville, which is located at 298 New Byhalia Road. They reportedly left the gas station in a white van with a ladder attached to it.
According to Shelby County Sheriff's Office, the deputies who reviewed the surveillance video "positively identified" Tad Cummins as the man in the gas station. That information would later be deemed false by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The surveillance footage from the gas station led to a BOLO alert to be issued for Cummins and Thomas.
The van seen in that surveillance footage was located shortly thereafter at Krystal on Union Avenue in Midtown Memphis. Investigators surrounded the van, searched it, and kept WMC5 crews at bay for hours.
Sources close to the investigation told WMC Action News 5's Jerry Askin that two people who were in the van were believed to have boarded a MATA bus.
At the MATA terminal on North Main Street, police cars could be seen parked outside.
Just after 4:30 p.m., MPD officers were able to locate the owners of the van, disproving the belief that Cummins or Thomas abandoned the van before getting on a MATA bus. Shortly thereafter, TBI announced the two people seen in the Collierville gas station were not, in fact, Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas.
The Amber Alert remains active and the two are still on the run.
TBI said Tad Cummins kidnapped 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas, a student at the Maury County, Tennessee, school where he was a teacher. She was reported missing on March 13 after a friend dropped her off at a restaurant in Columbia, TN.
An 'alarmingly low' number of sightings were reported by TBI after issuing the Amber Alert.
TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said Cummins spent a lot of time grooming Thomas to be his victim. Cummins was added to the TBI Most Wanted list on March 17.
Thomas has blonde hair and hazel eyes. She is 5'5" tall and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings.
Cummins is 6' tall and weighs 200 pounds with brown hair and eyes.
It was initially reported that Cummins and Thomas were believed to be driving in a silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee tag 976ZPT.