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Tad Cummins and Kidnapped Student Found in California
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Tad Cummins

Summary: The former teacher and his student that went missing 5 weeks ago were found hiding out in a cabin in northern California.

Five weeks ago a Tennessee teacher took off with his 15-year-old student. Tad Cummins, 50, was wanted in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Thomas from their small town of Culleoka, Tennessee where she was a student in his forensics class. The two were found in a northern California cabin, three hours northwest of Redding.


According to the Thomas’s sister Kat Thomas, the two were found in Cecilville, California. The family’s attorney Jason Whatley said on behalf of the family, “There aren’t words in the English language to describe the level of relief and elation experienced by the Thomas family. Now begins another hard chapter, but for now, we celebrate.”

Cummins was reported by another student that saw him kissing Thomas in his classroom, sparking their disappearance a few weeks later on March 13. Police knew he was driving his Nissan Rogue and had been spotted in Oklahoma City on March 15 but from there the trail went cold.

Finally, a tip came into the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tip line from someone that spotted Cummins and was able to tell authorities that he was residing in a cabin in Cecilville. The remote, unincorporated community along the Salmon River, two hours from the nearest police station, could have been a great place to hide from the authorities if their faces had not been plastered on TVs across the country.

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When the authorities arrived at the spot where someone from Siskiyou County, California claimed that Cummins was living, they found a Nissan Rogue parked outside with VIN numbers matching the one registered to Cummins. They monitored the car and arrested Cummins when the sun rose. TWI Director Mark Gwyn said that Thomas was found “healthy and unharmed.” Arrangements are being made for her travel home, placing an utmost concern for her well-being, Gwyn said.

Gwyn said, “Our intelligence analysts and agents have worked tirelessly since issuing this AMBER Alert to process more than 1,500 leads from all 50 states. What happened in California this morning, however, proves it only takes one person to lead to a successful end. We are extremely thankful the hard work of all partners in this search has paid off. We’re also grateful for the public’s support and vigilance throughout this search effort.” Cummins has been charged with transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of criminal sexual intercourse, stated Jack Smith, acting US attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. Just the one federal charge comes with a minimum of ten years. An aggravated kidnapping charge will have to be proven. The process of extraditing Cummins to Tennessee could take weeks.

Currently, state law allows children over 12-year-old to decide on their own whether to leave their family. If the removal or confinement “is accomplished by force, threat or fraud,” then the charge can be applied. Prosecutors will have to determine if Thomas was unlawfully removed from her home or had her freedom restricted in order to prove a kidnapping took place.

When Cummins’ estranged wife, Jill, heard that the pair were found safe, she was “very emotional,” according to her attorney Michael Cox. He said, “She is excited that they were found and nobody was hurt. She has not spoken to Tad.” Jill has filed for divorce, saying she was betrayed by her husband and has no idea why he did what he did or went to California. The place has no special meaning to their marriage or him as far as she knows.

Cummins was on the Tennessee 10 most wanted list. He is a father and grandfather. Days before their disappearance, he made searches on the internet on teen marriage and the age of consent as well as what features of his car could be tracked by the authorities. Authorities also discovered that the two were communicating before their disappearance by writing drafts on email and having the other person log into the email account to read and respond by draft so that there was no traceable history of their communication.

Do you think classrooms should be equipped with cameras to prevent teacher misconduct from happening? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about teachers that crossed the line, read these articles:




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