KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE/WKRN) – The Tennessee man who sparked a month-long Amber Alert has been charged in federal court.
Cummins was charged with transporting a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. An FBI Criminal Complaint revealed a detailed timeline of the Cummins’ and his 15-year-old student Elizabeth Thomas’ time on the run, from Tennessee to Oklahoma, all the way to Northern California.
According to the court documents, a 12-year-old student reported witnessing the pair kissing on January 23, prompting Cummins’ suspension on February 6.
“Instead of immediately putting the person on administrative leave, later he was, apparently she was removed from his classroom, so it appears some action was taken, but one could clearly argue not enough,” Greg Isaacs, Knoxville Defense Attorney, said.
The complaint also revealed Cummins and Thomas disappeared together on March 13, after meeting at a Shoney’s Restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee. The documents suggest that Cummins may have planned out his escape, taking out a $4,500 cash loan the previous week and refilling his erectile dysfunction medicine three days prior.
“Right before he took off with this minor, he had his Cialis prescription refilled,” Isaacs said. “He also got some products that can be used in a sexual manner. So the indictment does a good job of setting forth the allegations that support these criminal charges.”
The complaint also stated the pair was spotted on surveillance video on March 15 at an Oklahoma City Walmart.
The next day, investigators learned Cummins and Thomas visited another Walmart in Oklahoma, where Cummins bought women’s razors, chocolate, cubed cheese, and KY Jelly.
The documents report the suspect was finally taken into custody in California on April 20, arrested on a state warrant for aggravated kidnapping.
“I think it’s just very fortunate that they were apprehended because here is this little girl who came from a good community, a stable home life and was found with her teacher, this adult, in a commune in Northern California,” Isaacs said. “Just very unfortunate for this day in time that something like that can happen.”
The complaint states it is believed the pair were involved in a sexual relationship and traveled across state lines to continue their relationship and engage in unlawful sexual activity.
- Jan. 23, 2017: A student allegedly caught Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas kissing at Culleoka Unit School. The student notified school officials the next day.
- Jan. 25, 2017: Maury County Sheriff’s Officer begins investigating after student reports the pair kissing.
- Jan. 31, 2017: The school is notified Cummins is under criminal investigation.
- Feb. 6, 2017: Cummins is suspended from his job at Culleoka Unit School in Maury County.
- March 13, 2017: Elizabeth Thomas was dropped off at a Maury County Shoney’s between 7:30 a.m. and 7:45 a.m. by a friend. That’s the last time she was seen in Tennessee before her disappearance. Cummins was seen filling up his silver SUV at a nearby gas station around 8:30 a.m. just before picking Thomas up from the restaurant. Thomas, 15, was reported missing later March 13 by family and was entered into the nation’s law enforcement internal communications database. Authorities said they received information she was in Decatur, Alabama, around 3 p.m.
- March 14, 2017: An Endangered Child Alert was issued before the TBI upgraded the alert to a statewide AMBER Alert. Cummins was officially terminated from his position at Culleoka Unit School. He began working at the school in 2011. The Maury County Sherriff’s Office secures a warrant charging Cummins with one count of secual contact with a minor.
- March 16, 2017: The TBI said it remains “extremely concerned” for Thomas. Authorities also say Cummins may have abused his role as a teacher to groom Thomas. A BOLO, or be on the lookout was issued for both Cummins and Thomas. The FBI was also called in to help with the search.
- March 17, 2017: Tad Cummins’ wife, Jill, speaks for the first time and pleads for her husband to “do the right thing.” Jill Cummins said she wants Elizabeth Thomas home “as much as the rest of you, but I’m also very worried about Tad.” Maury County District Attorney, Brent Cooper, said he had known Cummins since childhood and pleads for him to turn himself in. Cummins was added to the TBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list.
- March 18, 2017: About 100 people gathered at Riverwalk Park for a candlelight vigil for Elizabeth Thomas. Thomas’ family was in attendance and made emotional pleas for her to come home to them. The family also spoke about the outpouring of support they have received from the community. Her dad said, “We are going to get her back. We are going to get her back. Please help us bring her home.”
- March 20, 2017: Thomas and Cummins have been missing for one week. The teen’s brother urges the public to keep sharing his sister’s photo. The family also asks the community to wear green – Thomas’ favorite color – or place green ribbons or wreaths on their homes and businesses. The TBI releases new photos and surveillance video of both Cummins and Thomas before their disappearance.
- March 21, 2017: Maury County Schools releases a timeline of its investigation into Cummins. The TBI says Cummins researched teen marriage eight days before he and Thomas disappeared. Authorities also said he reportedly researched his Nissan Rogue three days before Thomas was taken and the TBI said he was trying to determine if certain features could be tracked by law enforcement.
- March 23, 2017: Thomas’ family releases a letter through their attorney thanking the Maury County community for their support.
- March 24, 2017: A former co-worker of Cummins’ announces he is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest as AMBER Alert remains in effect. Investigators release new details and say Cummins and Thomas were communicating through draft emails prior to their disappearance.
- March 28, 2017: The TBI vows to keep doing everything it can to bring Thomas home safely. She and Cummins have been missing more than two weeks now. The TBI director called the pair’s disappearance a “well-thought out kidnapping.”
- March 29, 2017: The TBI translates AMBER Alert poster for Thomas into Spanish.
- March 31, 2017: The TBI says a reported sighting of Cummins in a Memphis suburb was deemed not credible. Cummins’ wife, Jill files for divorce, alleging irreconcilable differences have arisen and exist between her and her husband.
- April 1, 2017: The TBI releases surveillance video of Thomas and Cummins inside an Oklahoma City Walmart from March 15 – two days after the pair vanished. Investigators said the two used cash to buy various food items. Cummins appeared to have darkened his hair and Thomas may now have red hair.
- April 2, 2017: Family and friends hold a vigil for Thomas.
- April 3, 2017: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation determined photos shared by a police agency in Nebraska are not Thomas and Cummins.
- April 4, 2017: A tip in the AMBER Alert case called in to the Maury County Sheriff’s Office from a West Nashville hotel was deemed not credible.
- April 5, 2017: Thomas’ father urges his daughter to come home, “We all want you home. We all need you home.” At this point in the investigation, the TBI has received more than 1,300 tips from nearly every state in the country.
- April 6, 2017: Thomas’ father filed a petition asking a judge allow him to question potential witnesses as the search for the 15-year-old and 50-year-old Cummins continues.
- April 7, 2017: TBI Director Mark Gwyn said he remains optimistic that Thomas and her former teacher will be found. “I think at some point we’ll have a good outcome of this case as most of them that we do,” he said.
- April 12, 2017: District Attorney Brent Cooper said Cummins left a note for his wife, Jill, on the morning of March 13, the day he and Thomas vanished. In the note Cummins indicated he had a job interview. The DA also indicated that Cummins is on medicine to control his blood pressure and should be in need of a refill.
- April 14, 2017: Cummins family speaks to ABC News and begs him to come back home.
- April 20, 2017: After 38 days, Thomas and Cummins were found at a California commune after the TBI received a tip. Authorities said Cummins surrendered without incident and that Thomas was safe and appeared to be in good health. Agents said it would be about a day before Thomas would be reunited with her family.