New details on TN AMBER Alert suspect and victim

Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas (Courtesy: TBI)
Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas (Courtesy: TBI)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – After Tad Cummins was found and arrested in northern California early Thursday morning, federal authorities charged the former Maury County teacher with transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

The criminal complaint against the 50-year-old sheds light on his actions both before he allegedly kidnapped 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas and after, once they left Columbia, Tennessee.

The complaint begins outlining what happened with the reported kiss a 12-year-old student witnessed at Culleoka Unit School. The student reportedly walked into a classroom on Jan. 23 and observed Cummins kissing Thomas. The student described the kiss as a romantic peck rather than a father-daughter type kiss, the documents state. Authorities say the student confronted Cummins about the kiss and he reportedly “rambled on and on about how much he loves his wife but indicated [Thomas] sometimes went to church with him and his wife and that she had a troubled past.”

MORE: Timeline of search for Elizabeth Thomas, Tad Cummins

Tad Cummins (Courtesy: Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office)

It’s not clear when the school resource officer was notified of the incident, but the SRO told the sheriff’s office on Jan. 30 and the student was interviewed shortly thereafter.

The complaint states that with the help of Thomas’ father, detectives were able view her call history, which showed brief contact between her and Cummins on Jan. 31. That same day, detectives reportedly spoke with Thomas who explained her side of what happened the day of the alleged kiss.

The 15-year-old reportedly told investigators she had a verbal exchange with another teacher about going to the bathroom. She became upset and went to Cummins’ classroom, indicating he must have been consoling her and saying he possibly held both of her hands and may have been close to her face, telling her she needed to calm down. Thomas said she and the now-former teacher never kissed.

The following day, Cummins was interviewed by detectives. He reportedly told them his relationship with Thomas was more of a father figure at school. He also denied ever kissing her.

Days later on Feb. 3, the complaint says a school official notified law enforcement Cummins may have been alone in a classroom with Thomas despite being told he had to stay away from her during the investigation by the school district. The SRO checked surveillance video and confirmed the two were in his classroom for more than 30 minutes; other students were also present. As a result, Cummins was suspended from the school district on Feb. 6.

RELATED: Maury County Schools reviews policies in wake of AMBER Alert

Here’s Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas at school in January, days before his alleged inappropriate contact with her. (Courtesy: TBI)

According to the criminal complaint, Maury County Schools retrieved the school-issued laptop and iPad from Cummins. He was reportedly upset over the iPad, saying he had personal information on the device, including information on purchases he had made. It was ultimately turned over to detectives.

MORE: TBI: AMBER Alert suspect researched teen marriage before disappearing

The morning the two disappeared on March 13, Cummins reportedly borrowed his wife’s Nissan Rogue and told her he was going to the Williamson County Medical Center for a job interview. No interview was scheduled.

Later that night, his wife Jill Cummins came home from work and found a note he left. Court documents say he explained he was travelling to Virginia Beach or the D.C. area to clear his head, saying he would be back and urged her not to call police and denying he’d done anything wrong. Jill Cummins did not notify police.

Thomas’ family reported her missing that same night around 10:30 p.m. after she didn’t return home with her father reportedly telling deputies he was concerned she was with Cummins.

MORE: AMBER Alert: What is grooming, and what are the signs?

The next morning on March 14, the criminal complaint says Cummins’ wife called the sheriff’s office saying he hadn’t come home, left a note, and informing them Cummins had taken out a loan on his car the week before for $4,500. She reportedly told them the money was missing along with two handguns, clothes, and toiletry items. Documents state further investigation showed Cummins falsified information to obtain that loan.

Two weeks later, an employee of Super 8 Motels contacted the TBI and said she checked the company’s nationwide database for the name “Tad Cummins” and found he had stayed at the Super 8 location in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, from March 15 to March 16.

Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas at a Walmart in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on March 15, 2017. (Courtesy: TBI)

Cummins reportedly gave the hotel a Columbia address, phone number, and zip code. He was verified through a photocopy of his driver’s license, and the federal document says he rented a single, queen-size bed. A witness at the motel reportedly told investigators he inquired about directions to a local Walmart.

On March 30, investigators contacted the Walmart and obtained surveillance images confirmed he was inside the story with Thomas about 4:30 p.m. on March 15.

The next day, federal document state investigators received a call from Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, which owns and operates Super 8 Motels, that another room was booked under the name “Tad Cummins” in Guymon, Oklahoma. A local FBI agent went to the motel and confirmed he had been there, discovering he again rented a single-bed room.

The Super 8 in Guymon,
Oklahoma, where Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas stayed from March 16 to March (Courtesy: Shawn Yorks of the Guymon Daily Herald)

According to the criminal complaint, further investigation found Cummins and Thomas went to another Walmart while in Guymon and purchased several items, including women’s razors, chocolate, and cheese cubes. The two were, again, captured on surveillance video.

For all of the reasons above, the criminal complaint concludes investigators believe Cummins and Thomas were “involved in a sexual relationship and traveling via the interstate to continue their relationship and to engage in unlawful sexual activity,” resulting in the federal charge against the 50-year-old.

Click here for complete coverage of the AMBER Alert for Elizabeth Thomas.

Crime

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