In a letter to his wife on the morning of March 13, Tennessee high school teacher Tad Cummins told her he would be back soon — and to please not call the police. And then he allegedly fled across the country with a teenage student.
“I am sorry! I am on my way to Virginia Beach and maybe D.C. just to think and clear my mind of all this crap,” Cummins began his note, referring to an investigation at his school into an incident in which he allegedly kissed 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas.
“I am not running away. I’ll be back,” Cummins, 50, wrote to his wife of 31 years, Jill Cummins. “Don’t call police they’ll think I ran cause I’m guilty and I’m not!”
“I love you and I’ll call you soon,” he concluded. “Please forgive me.”
He signed the handwritten letter with a heart and his name.
By the time Jill called the police later that March afternoon, her husband and Elizabeth had been gone for hours. After a nation-wide manhunt, authorities say Tad was found on April 20 living in a remote Northern California cabin with the teen, whom he had taught health sciences in Maury County, Tennessee.
Tad’s note to his wife was part of evidence admitted into federal court last week by prosecutors in Nashville, Tennessee, PEOPLE confirms.
“Of course she knew about the investigation going [on] at the school and there’s no doubt that was causing stress between them,” Maury County District Attorney Brent Cooper previously told PEOPLE. “[But] she thought everything was normal.”
Tad is charged with kidnapping and sex crimes for allegedly abducting Elizabeth, a freshman at Culleoka Unit School. Both authorities and Elizabeth’s family believe she was “groomed” for months by Tad, who was fired from his teaching job during their disappearance.
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On Friday, a federal court heard the testimony of Tad’s sister, Daphne Quinn, and FBI special agent Utley Noble, who shared new information about the pair’s day-to-day lives while they were missing. Tad’s two daughters were in attendance, but his wife was not.
She filed for divorce in April and put their home up for sale earlier this week.
As Tad awaits trial, Elizabeth is undergoing counseling back home in Tennessee. Her relatives previously told PEOPLE that she has the help of “some of the best [professionals] in the country” and, more importantly, she is surrounded by love.
“And she needs love over anything else. Love is what’s going to heal her,” said Elizabeth’s older sister Kat Bozeman, one of her nine siblings. “We’re going to show her we love her unconditionally.”
“That’s another thing she’s going to have to learn,” Bozeman continued, “and I’m trying to teach her this: to be loved unconditionally and not settle for anything less than that.”
Tad’s California public defender could not be reached for comment, though he has previously argued that Tad did not coerce, force or threaten Elizabeth.
He has not yet entered a plea.