Elizabeth Thomas says former teacher Tad Cummins coerced her into running away with him


For the first time, Elizabeth Thomas, the teen who was at the center of an Amber Alert and more than month-long manhunt last year, is speaking about the ordeal.  

Tad Cummins, a former Maury County teacher, has since pleaded guilty to kidnapping his former student and taking her cross-country to California.  

Elizabeth told ABC’s Eva Pilgram that while on their cross-country trip, Cummins threatened her with a gun.  

“I went willingly to save my family,” she explained. “And, if I didn’t go, my family could get hurt and I would die as well. I mean, I was, I went with coercion and threats.”  

The teenager added she didn’t have a choice.  

“My choice was made for me by him,” she said.  

According to Elizabeth, Cummins wanted to try to go to Panama because he had been there before on mission trips.  

“So he got a kayak and he wanted to kayak all the way to Panama. And, I think it’s kind of dumb because nobody can kayak all the way to Panama, especially with the waves and how they were and how we almost sunk a few times and he tried to keep going,” she said.  

The Maury County teen said it wasn’t until a wave overpowered them that Cummins decided to turn around.  

“Whenever one wave nearly killed us – like took us over – it went over. It went over us and then hit us. Then he decided it’s time to turn around.”  

Prior to taking off with Cummins, Elizabeth said her former teacher made inappropriate comments toward her.  

“It was fourth period or fourth block. I can’t remember the conversation, but he said, ‘You’d look pretty nice naked.’” 

At the time, she said it was just the two of them in the classroom together.  

Elizabeth also opened up about Cummins kissing her and how she did not want to tell her parents or friends that she had been kissed by a grown man.  

“Whenever he first kissed me, that was whenever I realized this is getting too far,” she said. “I was scared. Like, I don’t want to tell my parents that a grown man kissed me and I don’t want to tell friends that a grown man kissed me because I don’t like the spotlight being on me.”

Elizabeth also revealed to ABC News that whenever she tried to seek mental help, Cummins told her no.  

“I was feeling real low and I was wanting to get on anti-depressants and try to go through to a therapist, and he told me no, and not to do it because it’d change who I was.”  

Instead, the teen said that he suggested that she come to him.  

Watch the full interview with Elizabeth Thomas on Friday at 10 p.m. on WATE 6 On Your Side. 

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