Teacher who fled with teen student and forced her to have sex with him every day sentenced to 20 years in prison

52-year-old Tad Cummins was sentenced to 20 years behind bars after pleading guilty to obstructing justice and taking a minor across state lines for sex


                            Teacher who fled with teen student and forced her to have sex with him every day sentenced to 20 years in prison

Predatory school teacher Tad Cummins, 52, has been sentenced in the abduction case that saw him coerce then-15-year-old student Elizabeth Thomas to run away from home with him and force her to have sex with him every day.

Cummins, who had previously pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and taking a minor across state lines for sex, was sentenced to 20 years in prison this past Wednesday, January 17, by US District Judge Aleta Trauga in Nashville. His defense team's argument that he should be given the minimum 10-year sentence because of his lack of a previous criminal record failed, though he did avoid the maximum possible sentence of 30 years. 

Cummins went on the run with Thomas in March 2017 (Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)
Cummins went on the run with Thomas in March 2017 (Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

According to the Daily Mail, Thomas previously revealed in an interview with ABC's 20/20 that she became close with the teacher and his wife of 30 years, Jill Cummins, because the couple took her in after her mother was charged with child abuse and neglect over her and her sister. Jill had even come out to say they thought of Thomas as their third child and that she believed the relationship between the teen and her husband was that of a parent and child.

However, things quickly took a turn for the worse, and Thomas said she fell for Cummins' charade because he made her feel like no one else could care for her as he did. She said she even avoided therapy over his advice. "I was feeling real low, and I was wanting to get on anti-depressants and try to go to a therapist," she revealed to ABC. "And he told me no and not to do it 'cause it’d change who I was,' she recalled.

The pair eventually started exchanging sexually-explicit messages on Instagram before Cummins then got her alone in a classroom and forcibly kissed her. It is believed he also had sex with her inside the closet in the school, with Thomas stating she didn't go to anyone with the information because she was scared of the backlash she thought she would receive due to their relationship's taboo nature.

Cummins was suspended by the school in early February 2017 after a 12-year-old student reported seeing the teacher kiss Thomas on January 23 of that year, though he would continue to court the teenager, forcing her to call and text him at regular intervals. "And any time that I wouldn't post for a few hours, he would go crazy and say that I was cheating on him and saying if he found out that I was with another boy, he'd kill them," Thomas said during her interview.

One month later, in March, Cummins reportedly told Thomas she would have to run away with him, threatening to kill himself or her family if she refused to comply. Scared for her life, the teen agreed, and on March 13, 2017, she was reported missing. On the same day, Cummins had left a note for his wife telling her not to call the police and that he needed to leave town to clear his head, making him the primary suspect. 

Thomas read out a powerful victim impact statement for the court before Cummins' sentencing (Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)
Thomas read out a powerful victim impact statement for the court before Cummins' sentencing (Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

She said he destroyed both of their phones so authorities could not track them and that he kept two guns in his car to ensure she couldn't escape. She also said he would keep her at his side at all times and force her to sleep naked next to him by taking away her clothes so she couldn't escape during the night. "He was really mean and said hurtful things a lot of the time," she said. "He called me his wife sometimes and said that we were going to get married and I was going to live with him until I died."

Cummins was caught on April 20 that year after authorities were alerted to their location by a concerned neighbor who saw the teacher driving a car without a license plate and noticed a very young-looking girl in the seat next to him. He was subsequently arraigned, charged, and pleaded guilty, with Thomas' powerful victim impact statement likely influencing the judge's decision to not show any leniency in the sentencing.

The statement, obtained by the Tennessean and which Thomas, now 17, read out in court, said, "When I started school, you picked me out of the crowd. I was just a kid who wanted to make friends, but you were someone who had a plan. You saw a broken girl who was lonely, scared, and traumatized. You made her feel safe and loved because you saw what she needed and made her believe you would be her 'protector.'"

"You act like you care now and that you’re full of all this regret, but where was any of that before? Where was any of that when you first had me alone in your classroom closet and violated me over and over again for months? Where was any of that when you spent untold amounts of time and effort into manipulating, pressuring and deceiving me into thinking that you were the only person that cared about me?"

"All you were was a man who wanted sex, and you manipulated me and used me just for that," she said at the end. "But the truth is, no matter how much time you have to serve, you will never be able to undo what you did to me. I will have to live with the scars you left on me forever."