50-Year-Old Ex-Teacher Accused of Kidnapping Teen Student Thought He'd Make a Great Educator

Tad Cummins, the former Tennessee teacher who allegedly "groomed" and kidnapped one of his teenage students, frequently thought he'd be a great educator

Tad Cummins, the former Tennessee teacher at the center a multi-state AMBER Alert after he allegedly “groomed” and kidnapped one of his teenage students, frequently thought he’d be a great educator.

“I have often thought that I would love to be a teacher, and just might excel at it, but it never seemed to be my destiny,” the 50-year-old wrote in his 2011 employment application to the Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tennessee.

The application, which was obtained by PEOPLE, details Cummins’ long work history — starting in 1985 as a technician at a medical equipment center. According to Cummins’ letter, teaching was his ideal “second career,” at which he thought he would do well.

Cummins was apparently a capable employee, according to school documents obtained by PEOPLE. In the years following his acceptance to Culleoka in 2011, for the position of the high school’s health sciences teacher, he was asked to return.

Last week, however, Cummins was terminated from his job and accused of abducting his 15-year-old student Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas, after allegedly having sexual contact with her in January.

A warrant has been issued for Cummins’ arrest on charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. The latter charge stems from an alleged kiss between him and Thomas, in January on school property, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Thomas, who goes by Elizabeth, was last seen on March 13 in Maury County, after a friend dropped her off at a local Shoney’s.

From left: Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas and Tad Cummins. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

In a previous interview with PEOPLE, Thomas’ sister, Sarah, said Elizabeth looked up to Cummins and “idolized him” for his years of experience in the medical field, where she aspired to work.

Before he joined the Maury County Public School District in 2011, Cummins worked in the health care industry for more than a decade. Before that, during his 20s, Cummins worked short-time jobs — most lasting about a year — including as an office manager at a local gas station and as a service advisor at Sears.

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Cummins’ career took a different turn when he decided to study respiratory therapy at Tennessee’s Columbia State Community College in 1991. Two years later, he graduated magna cum laude and obtained his therapist level license, according to a copy of his resume.

From there, Cummins worked at a hospital in Columbia, Tennessee, as a respiratory therapy supervisor from 1994 to 2003, the longest stay of his career.

In July 2003, Cummins left the hospital and began working freelance.

He described himself in his teaching application as a longtime conga and guitar player and Christian, who has worked with children at local youth camps and Sunday schools.

Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas and Tad CumminsCredit: TBI
Courtesy Tennessee Bureau of Investigations

The high school was impressed with Cummins’ long resume, which also included a trip to Panama to participate in a medical mission campaign, as well as a two-week disaster relief mission to Louisiana immediately following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

On his application, the school marked him down as an “outstanding” candidate and “well-suited” for the position.

He taught his first class a month after his interview.

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A Possible Sighting in Texas: Reports

On Friday, local investigators confirmed they had a call about a possible sighting of Cummins’ vehicle in Corpus Christi, Texas. The tip, which is one of more than 800 received since last week, included a partial plate number, The Tennesseean reports.

“The person said they possibly saw the vehicle and they had a partial license plate description with a Tennessee tag,” Gena Pena, of the Corpus Christi Police Department, told AL.com.

“We sent several units [to US Highway 181] but we have not substantiated the tip yet,” she told the site. “Officers are still checking freeway cameras and working the call. If they did come through our town, we are going to everything we can to help.”

Authorities allege Cummins is likely keeping Elizabeth “off the grid” and they’ve urged the public to search their properties, local campgrounds, rural areas and parking garages. Investigators previously said Elizabeth had been placed in Decatur, Alabama, after she disappeared. They declined to specify how she was tracked.

In an open letter Thursday, her family said they were “desperate” for information about her disappearance and again asked people to come forward if they know something.

“The last ten days have been the most difficult in the life of the Thomas family,” they said in their letter, which was released Thursday via their attorney and obtained by PEOPLE.

From left: Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas at Culleoka Unit School, in January, in Tennessee. Courtesy TBI

Elizabeth was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings. She is 5 feet 5 inches inches tall and weighs 120 lbs., with blonde hair and hazel eyes.

Cummins was seen driving a Silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee license plate 976ZPT, according to the TBI. He is 6 feet tall and weighs 200 lbs., with brown hair and eyes.

The Thomas family concluded their letter Thursday with a short declaration: “Elizabeth must be found. Time is of the essence.”

Anyone with information on Cummins or Elizabeth should call the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.

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