A former student of Tad Cummins, the Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas, said she was also groomed to be a romantic partner of Cummins when she was only 15.
“I definitely think, on his end, it was a bit more than a friendship — its hard not to think that now,” Destany Parrish, now 19, to People magazine.
Cummins, 50, and Thomas have been missing since March 13, though both have continued to update their social media accounts—Thomas’s Instagram account even claims that she is now a wife.
The pair absconded several weeks after a student allegedly spotted them kissing. The two were captured by surveillance cameras at a McDonald's in Nebraska last weekend.
Parish was a student of Cummins’ in 2011 and 2012, the first year the older man began teaching at Culleoka Unit School. At the time, Parish’s parents had just gotten divorced and she was living with her grandparents, a situation that she began confiding in to Cummins.
“I had somebody I could trust, and I couldn’t talk to my parents,” Parrish told People. “I don’t show emotions with family— I shut them out emotionally. [My mother] was just happy that I had somebody I could trust and I could talk to about the divorce.”
“We’d sit [in his classroom] and talk about everything and anything,” she continued.
But Cummins never inappropriately touched Parrish or made more explicit romantic overtures, she claimed.
“I never saw anything wrong with our friendship,” Parrish said. “He made me feel safe and he tried to do that with all of his students, so I never saw it as too weird.”
Still, Cummins allegedly once performed for Parrish a love song he had written.
“I definitely didn’t focus on the lyrics at the time,” she said. “I kind of thought about it [later] but I didn’t think about anything bad, I didn’t process them because it was Tad, the person I trusted.”
A warrant for Cummins arrest has charged him with aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
[Image: Facebook, TBI]