More disturbing allegations have come out as police continue to search for missing Tennessee teenager Elizabeth Thomas. Last Friday, true crime television mainstay Nancy Grace spoke with attorney Jason Whaley about the case on her Crime Stories podcast. Whaley, an attorney for Elizabeth’s father, alleged that her relationship with assumed abductor Tad Cummins was an open secret at the school she attended and where he taught, and that the pair were observed holding hands and other inappropriate behavior, which eventually led to his suspension.
Elizabeth Thomas, 15, began attending the Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, south of Nashville, last year after being home schooled until eighth grade. In an interview with PEOPLE Magazine, Elizabeth’s sister Sarah said she was vulnerable after having been bullied her first year at the school, and that she “idolized” Cummins because he had worked in health care, a field she wanted to pursue. Sarah says, “He took that interest to kind of manipulate, to gain control over her, to gain her favor.”
The avuncular 50-year-old Cummins taught respiratory therapy health science classes at the school and liked to befriend students, even letting them address him by his first name. But his relationship with Elizabeth went deeper. According to Whaley, witnesses say Cummins would give Elizabeth back and shoulder massages in the school cafeteria, and they were reportedly caught holding hands on several occasions. Elizabeth was also allegedly seen sleeping on a hospital bed Cummins kept in his classroom for teaching purposes, and kept a “special seat” for her by his desk. Prosecutors also claim they exchanged intimate emails which were inappropriate for a teenage student to be having with their adult teacher.
Cummins was reprimanded from his job on January 23 of this year after being accused of kissing Thomas on school property. According to Whaley, many at the school blamed her for the suspension of the popular teacher. On the morning of March 13, Thomas told her family she was spending the day with a female friend, who picked her up and dropped her off at a local Shoney’s restaurant at 7:45 a.m. Security cam footage caught Cummins at a gas station adjacent to the restaurant just past 8 a.m. Neither has been heard from since. Police consider Cummins armed and dangerous. Anyone with any information is urged to call 911, or the Maury County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office at (931) 375-8654, or TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.
[Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation]