Ex-Teacher Allegedly Planned to Flee to Mexico with Teen Student He Abducted
Tad Cummins had planned to "escape" to Mexico from California with his kidnapping victim, 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas, prosecutors claim
The alleged plan was laid out in a motion in support of detention as officials seek to prevent 50-year-old Cummins from being released from federal custody — stating that he “was a flight risk before he was caught [and] he remains a flight risk if he is released.”
The document, filed in federal court on Monday, was obtained by PEOPLE.
“[Cummins] planned and executed an audacious scheme to take a juvenile victim across the United States while evading law enforcement for the purposes of engaging in criminal sexual conduct,” prosecutors allege in their motion, “and, ultimately, he wanted to take the victim south of the border to Mexico and beyond for his own purposes.”
“In furtherance of this plan, the defendant procured a small watercraft and conducted a test run to cross into Mexico across the water from San Diego,” prosecutors claim. “The defendant also considered the feasibility of a land crossing into Mexico.”
Cummins will appear in federal court in Sacramento, California, later Monday, where prosecutors will formally charge him and seek to have him detained and sent back to Tennessee.
An arrest warrant was previously taken out for him in Tennessee on charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. He also faces charges in California and a federal charge, authorities have said.
It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.
Cummins and Elizabeth vanished from Maury County, Tennessee, on March 13 and were the subject of an ongoing AMBER Alert for more than a month.
They were discovered last week in a remote cabin near Cecilville, California, after a tipster saw the pair and contacted authorities on Wednesday night, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Prosecutors claim in court documents that Cummins began “plotting” a “bold scheme” to flee with Elizabeth after local authorities learned of his inappropriate relationship with her:
“During his flight, the defendant engaged in a daring cat-and-mouse run from law enforcement in order to further his own prurient desires while engaging in a number of sophisticated maneuvers to avoid being caught. … He cannot be trusted with conditions, or any combination of conditions, of release while awaiting trial.”
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Cummins allegedly obtained a loan of $4,500, stole his wife’s 2015 Nissan Rogue and then lied to his wife about his plans for the money, saying he was traveling to Virginia Beach, Virginia, or Washington, D.C., according to court documents.
Prosecutors allege that during their 38 days on the lam, Cummins and Elizabeth, who sometimes wore disguises, traveled through nine states using stolen vehicle plates.
Cummins “intentionally employed measures” to elude capture by switching vehicle license plates twice, disabling the vehicle’s GPS system, using aliases, altering the appearance of his vehicle, traveling by back roads and conducting cash-only transactions, prosecutors allege.
He also allegedly monitored news media outlets and stayed at “low profile locations, including hotels with relaxed check-in requirements and commune-type communities.”
“The crime alleged is heinous,” prosecutors argued in their Monday motion.
Cummins was fired from his position at a Maury County high school after he disappeared in March. According to prosecutors, he “abused a sacred position of public trust as a school teacher.”
They noted that “the evidence against the defendant is difficult to overcome” as it includes video evidence and documentation of Cummins’ alleged travels as well as a “post-arrest confession.”
Elizabeth, meanwhile, has returned to her family in Tennessee, where relatives say they are now looking toward the trial and the teen’s recovery.
As her older brother told PEOPLE, “It’s far from over.”