UPDATE: Elizabeth Thomas found safe.
Prior to locating her, she was completely unaware that the nation was searching for her to bring her home safely.
A very touching and revealing note from S. Jason Whatley, Anthony Thomas’ lawyer:
MISSING: An Amber Alert was issued for Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas, a 15 year old Culleoka, Tennessee student who was kidnapped by her 50 year old school teacher Tad Cummins in Columbia, Tennessee (Maury County) on March 13, 2017.
Elizabeth was last seen wearing a flannel shirt with white and burgundy plaid, black leggings and black sneakers. She is 5’2″ tall and weighs 120 lbs. She has hazel eyes and wears glasses (but often choosing not to wear them) and died her shoulder length hair red after she went missing. She is left handed.
Cummins, was last seen driving his silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee license plate 976ZPT, but may have stashed it and could now be driving a different vehicle. Cummins is 6’0″ tall and weighs 230 lbs. He has now died his hair and goatee to black. He has brown eyes. He is on medication to control his blood pressure and will be in need of a refill, and law enforcement is asking that pharmacy employees nationwide be on the lookout.
Now in custody, he faces kidnapping in the Amber Alert case and is also charged with sexual contact with a minor after he was caught kissing Elizabeth at the school earlier this year. Cummins stalked, threatened and groomed Elizabeth prior to kidnapping her. “Officials say he obtained a small boat and conducted a test run to cross into Mexico from San Diego. He then allegedly planned to travel to countries further south of Mexico. The document states Cummins took a number of steps to avoid capture, including using aliases, altering his appearance and disabling his vehicle’s GPS system.”
• 03/13/17 Law enforcement reports Elizabeth’s cell phone pinged along the interstate in Decatur, Alabama at 3:06 pm.
• 03/15/17 Cummins and Elizabeth were spotted at a Walmart in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Both appeared unkempt and “greasy”, and have dyed their hair: Cummins from brown to black, Elizabeth from light brown to red.
• 04/19/17 Man in northern California spots Cummins’ Nissan Rogue at a remote cabin in Siskiyou County. Elizabeth is rescued, Cummins is arrested.
Cummins was armed with two handguns and considered dangerous. Any other information about the case can be called in to 1-800-TBI-FIND.
ELIZABETH’s MOTHER: Kimberly Thomas, the mother, was charged with 5 counts of abuse and neglect for 5 of her 10 children, and she lost custody them and was removed from the home. A restraining order has now been granted against her. The mother would dig her fingers so far into Elizabeth’s face that it left permanent scarring. The mother banged Elizabeth’s head into the agitator of the washing machine, and also threw her down the basement stairs and locked her down there. In the course of her childhood, the mother exposed Elizabeth to men who molested her, and the mother forced Elizabeth to undress in front of people as a form of punishment. There were other abusive punishments, but these two examples alone highlight why Elizabeth was so vulnerable.
Elizabeth was home schooled until her freshman year, although no academics were “officially” taught to the kids according to siblings. The remaining siblings have grown and moved out of the home. A restraining order has been put against the mother to protect the children, and she is forbidden to make contact with her minor children. At the time of Elizabeth’s disappearance, she and some of her siblings lived with only their father. Since she had been previously sexually abused in her mothers care, she was easily groomed by Cummins.
When Elizabeth disappeared, in poor taste the mother made a cry out through a media outlet to attempt to reach her daughter. The mother appeared to be sitting in a wheelchair and wore a neck brace. However, she isn’t actually wheelchair bound and her family members have stated that the mother bought the chair and brace at Goodwill before she was removed from the home. It is believed she was seeking sympathy and thinks looking disabled will help. Her current weight was described as 350 lbs.
Based on safety issues for Elizabeth and her family, WSMV-TV Channel 4, Nashville respectfully decides they will not air their interview with the mother.
TAD CUMMINS: A teacher of Forensics and Health at Elizabeth’s school, Culleoka Unit School, Tad Eric Cummins has his AA and obtained a certificate from Columbia State Community College in Respiratory therapy. With that and his prior history serving as a youth group leader for multiple churches, he was hired as a Forensics teacher at the high school. Cummins’ wife had told the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI)/Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) team that Cummins grew up with her in Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee, which is about 20 minutes from Columbia, TN and about 30 minutes from work. They were married at a young age in 1985, they have two adult daughters (Erica & Ashlee), and she helped Cummins get his job at the school, where she works for administration. A former colleague stated that Cummins was a bully and narcissist, and offered up a reward for the return of Elizabeth.
Cummins met Elizabeth in December 2015, where he ultimately had her in his classes for two semesters. During her freshman year, Elizabeth was bullied, so was anxious about starting the 2016-2017 school year. Cummins recognized her vulnerabilities since she was a new student in a new situation and feeling uneasy, and realized she was an easy target he could prey upon unbeknownst to her father or siblings. He began grooming her for his own personal self satisfaction. In the course of the months school was in session, Cummins was often alone with Elizabeth, and gave her special attention, special privileges, and among other tawdry things he even convinced her (and other students) that he was a millionaire, an FBI, CIA and Secret Service agent, and that he traveled on secret missions. He also convinced her she had no future in college or work because of the kiss, leaving her feeling her best option was to leave with him. He also made her feel guilty for being suspended from his job, and she felt threatened that he would punish her for it. Elizabeth, being vulnerable, sheltered from a life of homeschooling, and not street savvy, was gullible and naïve and took Cummins’ lies at surface value. She enjoyed the special attention and came to grow fond of her teacher. Knowing these weaknesses of the 15 year old, he charmed her and wooed her. Through the mediums of Instagram, Facebook, text messages, draft letters on his work email that they both logged in to, and possibly other social media accounts, he began entrapping her to fall in love with him, and blatantly planned to kidnap her with her participation. There have been claims that there is evidence that Cummins was aggressively grooming her in December 2016. However, he may have actually started trying to gain Elizabeth’s trust even earlier. Examples of this grooming process in the classroom include him paying Elizabeth with money and gifts to “be good” in class and at home, providing a microwave in his classroom that only Elizabeth could use, moving her desk next to his in the classroom, spending non-academic time together, physical contact such as rubbing of her back and shoulders in front of other students, and even allowed her to sleep on a hospital bed kept in the classroom.
After school on January 23, 2017, while Cummins’ grandson (who also attends Culleoka was present in the high school classroom using a computer, a fellow student caught them sitting side by side in chairs and kissing on the lips. The following day, the student confronted Cummins for an explanation prior to reporting the kiss to school staff. Cummins had two of his students that he was a father figure and a close and best friend to Elizabeth, and that he knew she had suffered abuse at home. The kiss was denied by both Cummins and Elizabeth. The school principal, Penny Love, ordered them to keep away from each other. However, they were caught violating the principal’s order when a fellow teacher reported catching Elizabeth and Cummins secretly meeting alone in the classroom for over 30 minutes. Cummins was reprimanded by the principal on February 3, but the incidents were covered up by the administrative staff of the school. It was only after a police investigation is initiated that Elizabeth’s father was informed of the misconduct. Elizabeth’s father then searched her phone and discovered she had been communicating with Cummins. Her father’s lawyer immediately sent the school a letter expressing concern, asking about the circumstances going on at the school, questioning why he wasn’t alerted of the inappropriate activity, and informing the district to keep Cummins away from Elizabeth.
Because of the ensuing police investigation and this letter, on February 6 Cummins was suspended for insubordination, without pay, from his position. In the following 5 weeks that he was suspended, he and Elizabeth remained in secret contact. During this time, Cummins planned out the kidnapping of Elizabeth. Law enforcement revealed that in the days leading up to the kidnapping of Elizabeth, Cummins had researched teen-aged marriage, if his vehicle could be tracked via GPS, and what size mattress would fit in the back of the Rogue.
Among other examples, Elizabeth’s father has claimed that on March 11 Elizabeth hid from Cummins while she was at work at Chick-Fil-A. An attorney of the Thomas family verified that her father said Cummins had frequented Elizabeth’s workplace multiple times, where she once hid in the bathroom and begged her coworker to tell Cummins that she wasn’t there, as if she were being stalked.
On March 13, 2017 during a school’s in-service day for teacher planning (no students or classified staff on campus), he convinced her to meet him. According to Elizabeth’s father, he found evidence that the original plan was to meet at a Walmart, but Cummins felt there were too many cameras so they met at Shoney’s restaurant on Carmack Blvd. in Columbia, TN instead. He knew she wouldn’t be missed at school that day, so he could get a longer lead time to get away. When he kidnapped Elizabeth he had dark brown/grey hair and a greying goatee. It was only until the day after Cummins kidnapped Elizabeth that was he fired from his job at the high school, based on the Amber Alert. It has also been reported that teachers and students alike were bullying Elizabeth after the reported kiss, for getting their ‘cool’ teacher into trouble. Elizabeth was called slut, whore and tramp by students and teachers both. It is further reported that those same persons are now bullying the other Thomas children who still attend the school. The district has acted irresponsibly and left themselves in a vulnerable position. Within the school exists a group of protesters that are pro-Cummins. Those in the group include faculty members, teachers, and even students. Sadly, he also has people from his current church backing him.
Cummins’ wife contacted the detective who was handling the school case and reported Cummins missing that same Monday (3/17) because he told her he was leaving for a job interview, but she had a bad feeling about him. This may be in part to a note Cummins left behind on the morning of his disappearance for his wife, Jill, saying was heading toward Virginia, maybe even the D.C. area. He wrote that he just needed to clear his head and asked her not to call police. An alternate LE agency reported that the note was a diversion to buy Cummins time and mislead the investigation. It is believed she was speculating he might harm himself. Jill Cummins also told authorities that Tad had refilled his Cialis prescription used to treat erectile dysfunction just a few days prior to fleeing. The Morgan’s County Sheriff’s Department reported that Cummins had previously been looking for work in the area of Decatur, Alabama. TBI learned that he took a title loan out against a vehicle and other personal effects several days before his disappearance, netting $4,500 in cash, and he is armed with two handguns. A Shell gas station surveillance camera captured Cummins leaving after gassing up his car at 8:38:50 a.m. that same morning. In the video, Cummins is captured on tape turning to stare at the Shoney’s building while pulling his keys out of his left side pants pocket, after filling up his car with gas before getting back into his car. It is suspected that he drove directly from the gas pump to the Shoney’s parking lot.
ELIZABETH THOMAS: Elizabeth is a strong-willed 15 year old girl who likes the convenience of bathrooms, showers and hair products, and is not a camper. She does not usually leave home without her makeup on. She likes to wear special effects (FX) makeup for fun. Elizabeth dresses modestly. She typically wears jeans and t-shirts, and leggings with almost dress lengths shirts. She only wore pants and didn’t like dresses, skirts or shorts due to her abuse history. Her father stated that she is able to portray herself as socially mature and outgoing. Originally from Indiana, Elizabeth does not have a southern accent. She is left handed. Elizabeth gets seasonal allergies which can cause her to wheeze and possibly need a breathing treatment, and she is allergic to wheat and tomatoes, and eats gluten free foods, yet she failed to take her epi-pens with her. She has been to the ER for bronchitis. She has also had a broken leg, although the leg that was injured has not been disclosed. Once her family relocated to Tennessee, she has only left the state only once to attend an amusement park with her family. Her birth date is May 17, 2001.
One of Elizabeth’s fears was that she would be returned to her mother. It is speculated that this partially contributed to her willingness to run away from her life and start one with a man she looked up to and trusted. As far as any family members know, Elizabeth was a virgin in the sense that she had not willingly participated in sexual activities.
According to Elizabeth’s older sister Sarah, the Elizabeth got a creepy feeling the first time she met Cummins. Elizabeth looked at her sister with a look of being creeped out as he proceeded to rub both of their shoulders and run his hand on their backs. She eventually grew to trust him and mentor after him because she was interested in the medical field.
There were a few red flags that her siblings didn’t understand were red flags at the time. At one time, Elizabeth said she had to break up with a boyfriend because she wasn’t allowed to ‘be with him anymore’, but didn’t indicate who made this rule or who the boyfriend was. On the weekend before she was kidnapped, Elizabeth told her sister she couldn’t go to a party past the coming Monday (March 13). Then on March 13, Elizabeth woke her older sister in the morning and told her she was going to be gone for the day and back by 6:00 pm. The older sister said Elizabeth had a strange edge to her voice when telling her that if she wasn’t back by 6:00 pm to call the police to come find her. They report that she had not made similar statements like that before, always came home, and was always on time or a little bit early for everything. She also didn’t take her favorite stuffed animal and left behind her beloved dog Eclipse. Her father stated that she was just finishing some classes at church for her confirmation, and was “checking repeatedly with her brother that he would be there as her sponsor when she received the sacrament”.
Elizabeth made 3 trips to her friend’s vehicle then left her key on the porch before leaving her home. When she left she was carrying a large bag, a purse and gift bag or grocery sack with probably a small amount of makeup, a change of clothes, a toothbrush, a hairbrush, a straightener, warm weather clothing, and her sister’s two-piece bathing suit. She left wearing a burgundy flannel shirt with white plaid, black leggings and black sneakers. Her two sisters were at home when she left the house, and saw her leave. The family home has a security system with a video recording capturing Elizabeth leaving her home’s driveway at 7:41 am. She left behind an uncashed paycheck.
Her family members claim that before she left the house, Elizabeth told one of her sisters that she was going to meet a friend. When 6:00 pm came and went, family members tried calling Elizabeth and began driving around to her friends’ houses looking for her. When she could not be located and there was no evidence that she had returned home or to her bedroom that she shared with her 17 year old sister, at 7:30 pm CST that night she was reported as missing.
When her family realized she was missing, of the many possibilities that could explain her disappearance, Elizabeth’s father did also consider that Cummins might be involved, because of the previous violations that occurred at the school.
It was learned that Elizabeth was driven to Shoneys by a friend. While on their way, Elizabeth told her friend she was meeting a teen boy for a date but was having second thoughts about spending the day with him. That boy has since denied knowledge of Elizabeth’s existence. The friend said that at the last minute Elizabeth changed her mind and asked her friend to take her back home, begging “please get me home”. However, the friend couldn’t because she had to get to work. They would have arrived at Shoney’s no earlier than 8:00 am. Based on this information as well as the speculation that Elizabeth was afraid of Cummins at one point in time, it is believed that she possibly felt like the relationship was innocent at first, but eventually she became scared of him and began avoiding him. If she had been threatened she may have felt she had no other option but to go, even if she didn’t want to. She also may not have realized leaving meant forever, and that perhaps that she was expecting to be gone for only a few days.
Shoney’s employees verified that Elizabeth waited inside the restaurant, and when Cummins pulled up she ran outside and left her backpack behind. Someone later came back and picked up the bag after Shoneys staff set it outside. Shoneys also has not been further cooperative or forthcoming with information. They claim the cameras located on the outer perimeter of the building do not work. Elizabeth had been connected to her Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat accounts 24/7, so the fact that she hasn’t logged in to any social media is unusual and concerning.
Law enforcement has confiscated Cummins’ technology that he left behind and obtained access to his email accounts. Greater alarm has been issued due to undisclosed items found on his computers and accounts. It is speculated that he could be associated with the dark web, child porn, or some other disturbing and illegal activity. None of these speculations have been verified or shared with the public.
On many of his Instagram postings, Cunmins has used the hashtag #ohtheplaces to portray himself as well traveled. It is speculated that he will plan to hide out at a beach somewhere. Both Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas posted images of gluten free food products.
On March 27, 2017 a report came out from Nancy Grace revealing disturbing information about Cummins, information that was gleaned from the family lawyer. The report suggests that Elizabeth did not want to go with Cummins, who has an extreme dark side that hasn’t yet been exposed. It was also revealed that Elizabeth told her siblings that she was afraid of him and “in over her head”. It was disclosed Cummins once forced Elizabeth on a romantic meal date with him. She hesitated but he threatened she would face repercussions at school if she didn’t comply. It was also noted that he occasionally showed up to her home when her father wasn’t there and demanded she hang out with him.
A former student of Cummins’, Destany Parrish now 19, revealed that Cummins wrote her a love song while she was his 16 year old student. She claims they were close, but nothing inappropriate ever happened, yet admits he may have been grooming her before he started focusing on Elizabeth Thomas. Destany’s mother says this video of Cummins singing the love song to her teen daughter in the school’s music room is incredibly inappropriate in hindsight, especially after finding out Cummins had manipulated Destany to get alone time with her. more here
A Perpetuation of Testimony was filed against the school district, with the goal of extracting information on the whereabouts of Cummins and Elizabeth. Anthony Thomas thinks two of Elizabeth’s classmates may be withholding information that would bring Elizabeth home safe. One witness has become unwilling to assist and another has been inconsistent. The judge ruling the case followed up and is enforcing the need to have specific names of students and teachers as referenced in the petition the case. Per siblings of Elizabeth, a further goal is to get some type of safety plan in place to prevent this from happening to any further child. The school board has not been asked for any money.
The friend who drove Elizabeth to Shoneys, and the friend’s family are refusing to cooperate with the TBI/FBI/PD. The friend has changed her story multiple times, telling different people outside of law enforcement different stories of what occurred. The girl has passed information that could only be known if in contact with Elizabeth and Cummins. After the petition for testimony was filed, knowing family and law enforcement wanted to question her, the girl’s car was sold and replaced with a different one.
The TBI/FBI team have asked the public and law enforcement in Mexico and Central America to be on the lookout (BOLO) for Elizabeth and Cummins posing as missionaries, as a precaution only. “Because he was a very religious man, very knowledgeable of the Bible, it’s possible that he’s playing the role of a missionary in that area.” There have been no actual sightings south of the U.S. border of either Elizabeth or Cummins, although it’s possible they have made it that far. Officials are so concerned that the teenager may end up south of the border that they have even translated the Amber Alert into Spanish.
The Morgan’s County Sheriff’s Department reported that Cummins and Elizabeth may have stayed in a Decatur, AL motel the night of March 13.
TBI/FBI is asking the public and hunters to be on the lookout in rural or secluded areas, parking garages and lots, parks, campgrounds and other off-the-grid places.
• Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas have been reported as seen in association with a black RV at a Walmart parking lot in Mobile, Alabama.
• Cummins’s Rogue was reported as seen in Corpus Christi, Texas.
• Cummins has been reported as seen in association with a black ERA RV with Louisiana plates in Baytown, Texas.
• Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas have been reported as seen at a McDonalds at 6:09 pm in Kearny, Nebraska.
• 01/23/17 Cummins and Thomas are caught kissing as witnessed by a 7th grade student
• 01/24/17 Culleoka Unit School administration is notified by the student that the student witnessed inappropriate contact between Cummins and another student, Elizabeth Thomas. The complaint states that “it wasn’t like a make out kiss, just a peck on the lips.” All information from that day is gathered from the reporting student, who witnessed the ‘kiss’.
• 01/25/17 Amanda Hargrove, district Chief of Staff, is contacted by the school administration and an investigation is opened.
• 01/26/17 An in-house investigation of the allegations takes place per school board policy 5.500 and 6.305. Students, staff and administration are interviewed.
• 01/27/17 Cummins is the only chaperone on a school field trip that Elizabeth Thomas also attended.
• 01/27/17 Elizabeth Thomas is removed from Cummins’ classes and schedule by school administration. Cummins is given explicit directives from his supervisor to not interact with Elizabeth at all, and Elizabeth is ordered to make no contact with Cummins.
• 01/30/17 In-house interviews of students, staff and administration are continued.
• 01/31/17 While still under internal investigation, school administrators are notified by law enforcement that Cummins is now the subject of a criminal investigation. The district must turn over all known information and documentation on the recent allegations against Cummins.
• 01/31/17 Elizabeth Thomas’s father Anthony Thomas is finally informed of the allegations and internal investigation only when an investigator from Maury County Sheriff’s Department contacts him with questions.
• 02/01/17 Anthony Thomas is advised that the school has found nothing to substantiate the claims, and that Cummins remains employed by the school despite allegations of the incidents.
• 02/01/17 Anthony Thomas learns that Elizabeth Thomas has been being ridiculed and called names by persons at the school, and she is emotionally distraught.
• 02/03/07 In the late afternoon, the district receives an allegation that Cummins had been in contact with Elizabeth again.
• 02/03/07 Elizabeth is given an in-school suspension for showing up in Cummins’ classroom.
• 02/06/07 Anthony Thomas’s attorney sends a letter to the school’s central office
• 02/06/17 Amanda Hargrove meets with Cummins at 8:00 am to suspend him from his duties at the high school
• 02/08/17 Anthony Thomas receives a response to his letter
• 03/13/17 Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas both disappear.
• 03/13/17 Law enforcement is contacted and a missing person report is filed for Elizabeth Thomas
• 03/13/17 Elizabeth’s phone pings in Decatur, AL about 3:06 pm. There is rumor that their phones are found there with the batteries removed.
• 03/14/17 Amber Alert goes out for the kidnapping of Elizabeth Thomas by the TBI’s 10 most wanted – Cummins. Cummins is charged with inappropriate contact with a minor
• 03/14/17 Culleoka Unit School fires Cummins, prompted by the Amber Alert.
• 03/25/17 A $5,000.00 reward is offered by former colleagues of Cummins’ in addition to a $1,000.00 reward offered by TBI.
• 03/28/17 Local Sheriff’s, the TBI, and the FBI hold press conference reiterating that Elizabeth was groomed, brainwashed and kidnapped by Cummins. They state they believe she is in grave danger.
• 03/29/17 Chandler Anderson and his partner Blake Hight of Columbia, Tennessee raise the offer to $10,000.00 to anyone who brings her home, or to Elizabeth if she can get away from Cummins and get home.
• 03/31/17 Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas are positively identified together in a security video sighting from a Walmart in Oklahoma City on 03/15/17, where they purchased women’s razors, chocolate and a lubricant typically used for sexual intercourse. It is later learned that Cummins stopped in Oklahoma twice, booking hotel rooms with only one bed in his own name and even listing his phone number.
• 03/31/17 Jill Walters Cummins files for divorce from Cummins, her husband of 31 years. They have two adult children together.
• 04/02/17 Vigil is held for Elizabeth Thomas in Columbia, Tennessee’s town square.
• 04/06/17 Anthony Thomas, father of Elizabeth Thomas, files a petition for Perpetuation of Testimony in Accordance with TRCP 27.01.
• 04/10/17 The motion to compel testimony is denied in court. In order to serve a public notice of action so they can question the intended people, they must now wait 20 days to file the lawsuit. The next time they can file a motion is May 1.
• 04/19/17 A northern California man contacts Tennessee law enforcement to report a silver Nissan Rogue with missing license plates, resembling that of Cummins’. He further guided law enforcement to the remote cabin they were staying in that was next to a river, and has two cots and no power.
• 04/20/17 Elizabeth Thomas is rescued, and Tad Cummins is arrested.