A married teacher who is accused of taking a Tennessee high school freshman on the run described himself as a “warrior-poet” and “Jesus freak” on social media.
Tad Cummins, 50, allegedly researched teen marriage before vanishing with Elizabeth Thomas, 15.
Update: Tad Cummins was arrested in northern California, and Elizabeth Thomas was “safely recovered” on April 20, according to ABC News.
Police are accusing Cummins, a now fired teacher from Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tennessee, of grooming Thomas for sexual abuse before the pair disappeared. On social media, the disgraced teacher wrote about teaching and being in love.
Cummins has now been added to the 10 Most Wanted list. There’s been no sign of the teacher and student on the run for a week, despite Tennessee authorities releasing a stream of surveillance videos and photos of them.
Tad Cummins is married to Jill Cummins, and he frequently posted about his love for his wife on social media. His Facebook page says they have been married since 1985. Jill Cummins appeared alongside authorities on March 17 and implored her husband to turn himself in, according to The Tennessean.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Issued an Amber Alert for Thomas & Cummins’ Wife Pleaded With Him to ‘Bring Beth Back Home’
Appearing alongside law enforcement, Jill Cummins urged her husband to turn himself in, according to the Tennessean, saying, “Tad, this is not you. This is not who you are. We can help you get through this. I had no idea my husband was involved in any of this.”
WBIR quoted Jill as saying, “God’s grace is sufficient for you and he wants you to come home. Your family wants their poppy back. Please do the right thing and turn yourself into the police and bring Beth back home.”
CNN reported that Cummins, on his resume, described himself as a “teen Sunday school teacher” and “adult chaperone for youth activities” who said he had “volunteered in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and in the Panamanian rainforest. He earned a black belt in Kenpo Karate in 1999.”
The Tennessee statewide Amber Alert was issued by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on behalf of the Maury County Sheriff Department for 15-year old Thomas.
The alert says she “is white, blonde hair, hazel eyes, 5’5” and 120 pounds, last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings. She may be in the area of Decatur Alabama.”
Thomas is believed to be in the company of 50-year old Cummins, described in the alert as a “white male, 6’0”, 200 pounds, brown hair and eyes. He is believed to be armed with two handguns and driving a Silver Nissan Rogue, TN tag, 976ZPT. A warrant has been issued for Cummins for Sexual Contact with a Minor.”
People with information were urged to call the MCSD at 931-375-8654 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.
Cummins has no adult criminal record in Tennessee, according to WHNT-TV.
The TBI issued an update on March 18 that said Cummins could be “anywhere” and that there was evidence he had planned the vanishing act.
A low number of tips might mean that he is having Thomas sleep in his car or otherwise keeping her out of the public eye, according to TBI. “She’s a high school freshman. He was a teacher accused of kidnapping her. Let’s find her now,” TBI wrote.
2. The Teacher Was Fired After Being Accused of Kissing Thomas in a Classroom & Neighbors Describe Him as Dedicated to Family
According to ABC 7 Chicago, the teacher was recently accused of having sexual contact with Thomas before the pair disappeared.
Thomas’ sister Sarah Thomas “said she heard Cummins tell stories with other students about being in the FBI, CIA and Secret Service” and called him a “weirdo,” according to WSMV. Sarah said that Thomas was bullied in school, the television station reported.
Authorities “confirmed that Cummins is charged in connection with an alleged sexual interaction with Thomas at the school where he taught and she was a student,” the television reported, adding that the “school district suspended Cummins when the allegations surfaced and terminated his employment Tuesday” March 15.
According to the UK Daily Mail, Cummins, a health teacher, was allegedly caught kissing Thomas in February and met the teen, who was one of a family of 10 children, “through the local chapter of HOSA, an international student organization that promotes career opportunities in the health care industry.”
The Columbia Daily Herald reported that another student walked in on Cummins and Thomas kissing in a classroom. “Cummins and Thomas were sitting side by side in chairs and kissed on the lips as the grandchild, who also attends Culleoka, was using one of the classroom’s computers,” the newspaper reported.
Cummins was suspended February 6 after the report, and authorities were still investigating the situation when he vanished with Thomas, according to the Daily Herald, which said the witness had regarded Cummins as a mentor and told her mother what she saw.
According to the newspaper, the witness confronted Cummins about the situation, and “he told her they had a daughter-father relationship. They went to church together every Sunday with Tad’s wife. He said he wanted to reassure Beth that no matter how rough her life has been, he was there for her.”
“What Tad did, he stole my daughter from me, but Maury County is a big community. He didn’t just steal from me, he stole from the whole community,” Thomas’ father said at a vigil.
Authorities said that Thomas had a difficult life, without elaborating, and Cummins may have taken advantage of it, according to The Tennessean.
According to WSMV, “police arrested Elizabeth’s mother, Kimberly Thomas, last year. She was charged with five counts of child abuse and neglect. According to court documents, Kimberly Thomas beat Elizabeth and four of her siblings.”
Elizabeth told authorities, according to WSMV, that her mother “banged her head into the agitator of the washing machine” and “threw her down the basement stairs and locked her down there.” The TV station added that “Kimberly Thomas is also accused of making the children get naked in front of several other people” and “Elizabeth is one of 10 children in a single-parent home because her father now has full custody of all of them.” According to the TV station, Elizabeth was home schooled until this year.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports that “District Attorney General Brent Cooper confirmed the details of the incident for which Cummins now faces a charge is connected to an alleged interaction between Cummins and Thomas at the school where he taught and where she was a student.”
The TBI determined that “Cummins secured a title loan for a personal vehicle and other personal effects several days before his disappearance, netting $4,500 in cash.”
He taught at Culleoka Unit School, according to WHNT, which quoted surprised neighbors describing Cummins as devoted to his family, down-to-earth, and intelligent.
On social media, Cummins was on Facebook with a joint name with his wife “TadandJillCummins” and posted of his love for his wife as recently as Valentine’s Day.
He posted many photos with his wife.
WHNT News 19 quoted a neighbor as saying of Cummins: “[He’s] very dedicated to his family, appeared to be very respectful, to everyone.” Another neighbor told the television station: “It was a surprise because he’s such an honest man. You know we always thought he was a down to earth guy. He’s always helped my elderly grandparents over here if they needed help.”
In 2012, Cummins posted a photo on Twitter of his 4-year-old grandson setting up a chessboard and eating carrots.
3. Cummins Posted on Twitter About Teaching & Politics & an Instagram Account in His Name Has Numerous Posts About Love
On his Twitter page, Cummins had posted sayings about teaching, including retweeting this one:
CNN reported that Cummins was hired at the school in 2011 after working as a respiratory therapist and quoted his resume as saying “he graduated magna cum laude from Columbia State Community College in 1993 with an associate of applied science degree in respiratory care technologies.” According to CNN, Cummins also claims on his resume that “he has been in several bands. He also holds copyrights for 65 songs.”
According to CNN, Cummins was in a band called “Cry For Holiness!” Its website says it consists of “5 Dads that God brought together as one collective vessel to use the musical talents He gave us to glorify His precious name and reconcile His children to Him! Our one desire is to go where He sends us and lift up His glorious name.”
On social media, he also posted about politics, indicating he was tuning into a debate to hear Donald Trump and compared Planned Parenthood to the Mafia.
He also posted photos of himself with other students in school activities.
An Instagram page in Cummins’ name posted numerous photos about love in recent days. Among them, “you’re all my heart ever talks about” and “It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.” The page has the same profile saying as the Twitter profile.
The morning Thomas was last seen, the account posted, “Good morning all!! This is going to be an amazing day. Let’s do this!”
On Twitter, Cummins described himself as “Jesus freak/child of The King, husband, father, grandfather, high-school teacher, clinician, drummer, audio tech, jeep owner, singer/songwriter, warrior-poet.”
Cummin’s most recent tweet, from November 2016, was about shirts for the school:
Thomas calls herself “wife” on Instagram, and posted a graphic from Beauty and the Beast around the time she vanished that says “every beauty needs her beast to protect her from everything but him.” However, she also posted sayings about being broken, ugly, and wanting to die.
WHNT News 19 quoted a neighbor as saying of Cummins: “[He’s] very dedicated to his family, appeared to be very respectful, to everyone.” Another neighbor told the television station: “It was a surprise because he’s such an honest man. You know we always thought he was a down to earth guy. He’s always helped my elderly grandparents over here if they needed help,” he explained.
Thomas’ father also took to Twitter – to implore his daughter to come home, saying she has been missing since March 17.
In one heartbreaking post, he wrote, “Izzy! Please come home to us! I can’t live without you!!!????”
The other posts said Thomas was missing and urged the public to help find her.
4. Authorities Say They Are ‘Extremely Concerned’ About the Teen’s Welfare & Accuse Cummins of Grooming Her for Abuse
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a statement that authorities are “extremely concerned for the well-being of Elizabeth Thomas, the victim in an ongoing AMBER Alerts in Tennessee and Alabama.”
“Though the TBI cannot discuss specifics at this time, investigative efforts have revealed a troubling pattern of behavior by Tad Cummins, suggesting the 50-year-old 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,” reported the TBI.
Culleoka Unit School describes itself as “located in the southeastern corner of Maury County, Tennessee, USA. The school serves over 1,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12.”
According to CNN, Thomas had taken forensics with Cummins and told the school authorities, according to an investigative report, that “she goes to Cummins’ classroom when she becomes upset or anxious. She considers him a friend and he knows how to calm her down. Other students feel the same about him, she says. She denies that they’ve ever kissed and says that she has been to church with him and his wife. The only times Cummins touched her, she says, is when he gives her the occasional fist bump.”
5. Police Released a Gas Station Video They Say Is Cummins & Traced the Pair to Alabama
According to TBI, authorities say “Thomas was last seen on Monday morning at approximately 8:00 AM at the Shoney’s in Columbia, Tennessee, after being dropped off there by a friend. Her parents reported her as missing later that same day.”
Police released a surveillance video they say is Cummins filling up his car with gas before taking off with Thomas.
On March 20, authorities released these videos:
They also released what they said was the last known photo of Thomas:
Investigators say they “can place Thomas in Decatur, Alabama at approximately 3:06 CST on Monday afternoon, though neither individual has a known connection there and may have just been passing through the area.”
They say they have only received 120 tips, none that have panned out.