Tad Cummins, a 51-year-old man whose name has been much in the news since March of 2017 when he disappeared with his student and then 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas, has been denied his latest request for a detention hearing.
Currently being held at a prison in Henderson County, KY, Cummins filed the motion for the hearing alleging that he and his federal public defender were repeatedly not given space to meet privately in the jail. However, prosecutors in the case have called these allegations outright lies and claim that he is telling lies in order to be released from prison.
For the role that he playing in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Thomas, Cummins faces numerous federal charges including the transportation of a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activities and the obstruction of justice. In addition to these, he has also faces state charges including sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping.
On March 13th, 2017, Elizabeth Thomas went to a restaurant where she worked but never came home. That evening, her father contact the police and told them that he believed she was with her teacher Tad Cummins who they soon learned had also left home that day. It was then that a several week manhunt began.
As the news of the kidnapping spread and details were released, it became clear that the relationship between the teacher and student had been going on for some time.
On January 24th, a student approached a school official to report that a few days prior she had witnessed an incident which left her feeling very uncomfortable. She reported that she had seen Cummins and Thomas in a classroom together and that Cummins had kissed Thomas on the lips. Although it was described as just a “peck”, this type of interaction between teacher and student is clearly inappropriate.
The student was interviewed and school admin then contacted the Public Schools Chief of Staff who began an investigation.
During the investigation, Elizabeth Thomas was questioned and she told school officials that she frequently went to Cummins classroom when she was anxious because he was a friend and counselor. She also admitted to spending time with him outside of school at church but maintained that his wife was present during these outings. She denied that any physical contact occurred between the two of them.
Cummins, who was also interviewed, denied that a kiss took place.
However, another teacher had noted that even though she never saw anything inappropriate happen, she did note that Thomas was often in Cummins room and that she noted he had moved his desk to be closer to the student.
It was recommended that Thomas be removed from the classroom and that contact between the two be banned. An advisor was to be placed in Cummins room to monitor his contact with students and Thomas was ordered to guidance counselors.
On January 31st, law enforcement contacted the school and informed officials that Cummins was under criminal investigation and requested any information on allegations made against him be handed over. Despite this, Cummins was allowed to remain in his position.
It wasn’t until February 1st that Thomas’s father, Anthony Thomas, learned that allegations have been made about inappropriate contact at school and only because a detective showed up at his home to discuss the allegations. He assists the police in looking through his daughter’s phone which shows that the teacher and student have been in contact outside of school.
On the 3rd, school officials learn that Thomas and Cummins have been in contact despite the restrictions that were ordered and they immediately suspend Cummins without pay.
On March 13th, prior to being dropped off at work, Thomas tells a sibling that is she’s not home by 6 p.m. to call the police. At 8 a.m., the time she’s dropped off, Cummins is seen filling up on gas at a station near her employment. By that evening, she is listed as a missing person and an Amber Alert is issued. When investigators attempt to locate Cummins, they discover that he is also gone and that he had left his wife a note indicating he was taking the car because he needed to get away to clear his head for a few days and that she shouldn’t worry or call the police.
They also find that he had been researching teen marriage and how to prevent being tracked by law enforcement. In addition to this, he’s withdrawn $4,500 in cash and refilled a medication for erectile dysfunction.
A manhunt begins which will last for several weeks. During this time, several reports of sightings are given and surveillance tape with the missing teen and teacher are seen. Cummins is officially fired from his job and his wife, who had no idea any of this was going to happen, files for divorce.
On April 19th, a man contacted authorities and reported that he believed a pair named “John” and “Joanna” were staying in his cabin in Northern CA and that it was actually Tad and Elizabeth. He assisted authorities in drawing Cummins out into the open by discussing a retaining wall and police are able to arrest Cummins and rescue Elizabeth who is soon reunited with her family.
It is clear that the two have been sexually active which of course resulted in charges being filed against Cummins.
According to court documents, this isn’t’ the first time that Elizabeth Thomas has been the victim of abuse and her past may have made her susceptible to a predator.
In 2015, Anthony Thomas obtained sole custody of his children and filed for divorce because of allegations made against their mother who has been charged with child abuse and neglect. According to documents, Kimberly Thomas would beat her children until they were bloody, force them to strip naked in front of others, and had locked them in a basement in substandard conditions.
According to experts, children who have already been abused are more likely to be abused again in the future and predators often seek out troubled children from broken homes. According to Dr. Rebecca Bailey who is a California psychologist, a predator will find these children and then take their time “grooming” them. She stated, “The message is that “I am the only one that can understand you, emotions are here, come be with me and I’ll save you from the terrible ugly world.”
Given the fact that Thomas had said Cummins was her friend and counselor who helped with her anxiety, this may be exactly what happened.
Several months after being reunited with her family and undergoing intensive therapy, Thomas did an impromptu interview and stated that “I don’t regret it, nor do I say it was the right thing to do. It was an experience I’ll have to live with the rest of my life. It’s good and bad. No matter what we do, we’ll have to deal with it.”
After this statement was made, another psychologist and author, Dr. Michelle Stevens, commented on Elizabeth’s interview saying that “Kids who are abused often are very attached to their abusers. On one hand, she objectively understands that she was kidnapped by this man, but because she was ‘groomed’, her feelings are telling her that maybe this guy still loves her.”
According to the National Institute of Justice, around 85% – 90% of all sexual abuse victims know their attacker. This can make it difficult for them to report the abuse for several reasons:
According to statistics provided by the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, if the abuser is a friend or acquaintance, only 18% – 40% of all sexual assaults are reported and if that person is an intimate partner, at most only 25% are reported. When the victim is underage and puts their trust and faith into an adult, that number drops even lower.
The best way to change this is to continue educating the public on sexual assault and by fighting against practices like victim blaming.