COLUMBIA, Tenn. -- The federal warrant against Tad Cummins charges him with transporting a minor across state lines with the intent of engaging in sexual activity.
Cummins, 50, was arrested Thursday in a rural area in Siskiyou County, California.
Elizabeth Thomas, the 15-year-old who’s been the subject of a national AMBER Alert and search, was rescued from the scene, investigators said. She was located more than a month after she was last seen at home in Columbia, Tennessee.
The federal criminal complaint sketches out what is known in the case against Cummins, but doesn’t yet contain many details about where Cummins and Thomas have been since she was last seen on March 13.
It includes a denial from Thomas that she and Cummins were kissing at school, references to Cummins getting Cialis prescriptions filled before he left town and at least two instances where Cummins secured hotel rooms with one bed in Oklahoma.
A complaint filed in federal court in Tennessee contains an affidavit from Jonathan Hardison, a detective with the Columbia Police Department and a member of the FBI task force searching for Thomas.
The affidavit starts with reports that a School Resource Officer contacted sheriff’s investigators in late January saying a student had reported seeing Cummins and Thomas kiss.
The Maury County Sheriff’s Office investigators went to the Culleoka Unit School, where Cummins was a teacher and Thomas, a student.
“Detectives and the SRO subsequently spoke with the student,” the affidavit says. “The student related that he/she saw VICTIM and Cummins kissing. The student described the kiss as a romantic peck rather than a father-daughter type kiss.
Students confront Cummins
“The student stated that he/she and another student went to Cummins' classroom after school and confronted him about his relationship with VICTIM," the affidavit says. "The student related that Cummins rambled on and on about how much he loved his wife, but indicated that VICTIM sometimes went to church with him and his wife and that VICTIM had a troubled past.”
The affidavit then says they spoke with Thomas’ father.
“With the assistance of VICTIM's father, detectives were able to view the call history on VICTIM's phone,” the affidavit says. “That history showed brief contact between VICTIM and Cummins' known phone number on January 31, 2017.”
The investigators talked to Thomas on Jan. 31, the affidavit says.
“On January 31, 2017, detectives spoke with VICTIM, who advised that on January 23, 2017, she had a verbal exchange with another teacher about going to the bathroom,” the affidavit says. “Upset over the incident, she went to Cummins' classroom. VICTIM indicated that Cummins must have been consoling her when the student walked in.
“VICTIM advised that Cummins possibly held both of her hands around the wrist area and may have been close to her face at the time, telling her she needed to calm down. VICTIM asserted that she and Cummins had never kissed.”
Cummins was suspended from his job Feb. 6, the affidavit says.
The affidavit also describes Cummins’ departure.
Cummins leaves a note, asks wife not to call police
On the morning the pair went missing, the affidavit says Cummins lied to his wife, telling her he had a job interview and needed to borrow her car, the 2015 Nissan Rogue. Follow-up investigation revealed he never had an interview.
Cummins' wife returned home the evening of March 13, 2017 and discovered a note left from Cummins,” the affidavit says “In the note, Cummins explained that he was travelling to Virginia Beach or the D.C. area to clear his head. He said he would be back and urged his wife not to call the police. Cummins denied doing anything wrong and asked his wife to forgive him. At that time, the wife did not contact police.”
On March 13, Thomas did not return home and her father contacted sheriff’s office investigators.
Cummins wife contacted investigators the next day, the affidavit says.
“On the morning of March 14, 2017, at approximately 7:30 a.m., Cummins' wife contacted MCSD and informed an MCSD Captain that Cummins did not come home the previous night and had left a note for her,” it says. “She also advised that Cummins had taken out a loan the previous week of approximately $4,500. Cummins' wife advised that Cummins had purportedly done this to meet their financial needs during his suspension from work without pay. She reported that the money was missing, along with two handguns, clothes, and toiletry items.
“Subsequent investigation revealed that Cummins had falsified information on the application to obtain the loan.”
The affidavit also notes that Cummins filled two prescriptions for Cialis – an erectile dysfunction drug – before he left town.
The affidavit says investigators received a hotline tip on March 29 from a Super 8 Motels employee, who reported on a national database search for the hotel chain.
“The database showed that Cummins had stayed at a Super 8 location in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma located at 3852 S. Prospect on March 15, 2017 and March 16, 2017,” according to the affidavit. “The employee stated that the information in the database showed that Cummins gave a Columbia, Tennessee address. It also showed his phone number as 931-* * *-1919, a known phone number belonging to Cummins, and postal zip code of 38401.
“A photocopy of Cummins' Tennessee driver's license taken by the clerk was provided to investigators. Cummins rented a room with a single queen-sized bed. Upon further investigation, investigators learned from a witness at the motel that Cummins had asked for directions to a local Walmart.”
The tip came two weeks after Cummins was at the Super 8, the affidavit shows. Investigators then sought footage from an Oklahoma City Walmart. That’s apparently where investigators got the widely-seen shots of the Cummins and Thomas in the store.
The affidavit says investigators got another tip on April 1 from the Wyndham Hotel and Resorts chain. That tip showed Cummins got a room in Guymon, Oklahoma, March 16 and 17.
The investigation included more footage of Cummins and Thomas at the Guymon Walmart.
Investigators said they obtained a receipt for what Cummins bought at the Guymon Walmart, including cheese, chocolates, a woman’s razor, and a “commonly used lubricant for sexual intercourse.”
Then the affidavit says they were located in Cecilville, California, by investigators on April 20, 2017.
“Cummins was arrested on a state warrant for aggravated kidnapping,” the affidavit says. “It is believed based on the investigation to date, as set forth herein, that Cummins, age 50, and VICTIM, age 15, are involved in a sexual relationship and traveled in interstate commerce to continue their relationship and to engage in unlawful sexual activity.”