MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. -- It has now been 9 days since 15-year-old Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas disappeared. For Elizabeth's family, her absence is excruciating.
The last time anyone in her family saw Elizabeth Thomas, it was early Monday morning. She left with a somber warning. "She woke up her older sister and said 'Hey I'm leaving, but if I'm not back by 6:00 come looking for me,'" Thomas's sister-in-law Danielle Thomas told WHNT News 19.
She said they didn't even know anything was wrong until they saw the AMBER alert.
"She woke up her older sister and said 'Hey I'm leaving, but if I'm not back by 6:00 come looking for me'" "We were shocked and dumbfounded. We just couldn't believe it. You think that's going to happen to your neighbor, you don't think that's going to happen to you," she explained.
Danielle Thomas said it bothers her that people are downplaying the fact Elizabeth is a victim, just because she might have gone willingly.
"In a way she did go willingly, but she is again only fifteen years old. This man was an authority figure in her life and he ultimately knows better," she said.
She said the family wants to hope she's not in danger, and that Thomas realizes how loved she is.
"She's got so many people, so many friends, so many family members that just, their hearts are breaking because we miss her. We want her back home," said Danielle Thomas.
When asked what Elizabeth was like, Danielle Thomas described her as a joke teller and a clown.
"She just really likes laughing and joking around with people," she said.
Known as Mary Catherine to her family, Thomas is more than just the face you see plastered on the AMBER alerts. She is one of ten kids, a social butterfly among them, and deeply loved.
"She was the most outgoing, most easy-going out of all of the children. She was close with everybody," said her sister-in-law.
A larger than life presence that is felt even more so when it's missing.
"They say that the house is not the same without her, that it's cold, and quiet, and everybody just wants her to come home," she said.
Thomas suffered a troubled childhood. While her sister-in-law doesn't place blame on that, she does think it made her more vulnerable to this type of situation.
"I think that any child who has been through a rough situation, whether it be small or big, is more susceptible," she said.
But no matter the circumstances, her family said they will be here. They have a specific message for her.
"Mary Catherine needs to know nobody here is mad at her, and she is always welcome back home. We are all going to be here when she comes back, and we're all going to love her," said Thomas.
They just plea for her safe return home. Her family said they know the situation has been shared extensively here in the Tennessee Valley, and they ask that the community keep sharing. Any little bit helps to bring her home.