Tennessee teacher kidnaps teen student

Teacher fired last week kidnaps 15-year-old girl, sources say teen's life is 'in imminent danger.'

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Chana Roberts,

Police line (illustration)
Police line (illustration)
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A former Tennessee teacher, fired last week, is now on the state's "Top 10 Most Wanted" list after being accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old student.

According to authorities, 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas disappeared together with 50-year-old Tad Cummins, and Thomas is in "imminent danger."

Cummins has been charged with sexual misconduct with a minor, and is believed to be in possession of two handguns and a recent loan which gave him $4,500 in cash.

He was dismissed from his Culleoka, Tennessee teaching position after authorities issued a warrant for him on charges of sexual misconduct. School officials say Cummins did not teach Thomas in any classes.

Last Monday, a friend of Thomas' dropped her off at a restaurant in Colombia, Tennessee, near their high school. At approximately the same time, surveillance cameras recorded Cummins getting gas at a nearby gas station.

According to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officials, Thomas and Cummins were 80 miles away in Decatur, Alabama by late Monday afternoon.

Though state investigators have received 250 tips from 24 states, none of them have helped locate Thomas, leading investigators now believe Cummins is hiding in a secluded area or has left the region entirely.

A lawyer for Thomas' father Anthony Thomas said the events began on January 23, when another student reported Thomas and Cummins kissing in a classroom. A week later, a detective with the Maury County Sheriff's Department notified Elizabeth's father Anthony of the allegations.

Anthony Thomas called the school immediately on February 1, and spoke to a woman who apologized for "leaving him in the dark" and promised him there would be no further contact between the two.

However, on February 6, Elizabeth told her father she still had a class with Cummins. An internal school memo from February 8 noted Thomas had been removed from Cummins' forensics class, and claims he still taught her were false.

Meanwhile, the school district ran an investigation from January 25-31, dismissing Cummins on March 14.

District Attorney Brent Cooper said, "This is a 15-year-old child that has led a difficult life, basically going against a 50-year-old man. I believe it’s clear at this point that her removal by him is unlawful. And what makes it aggravated is that he was in possession of firearms."

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Cummins, "may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom Thomas in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her."

They also said the kidnapping may have been pre-planned.