The details were made public in a federal arrest affidavit filed by Jonathan Hardison, a Columbia, Tennessee police officer who serves on an FBI task force. The arrest affidavit was released in federal court records after Cummins was apprehended and Thomas was found safe in northern California on Thursday.
The new details include information about how the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found out the two were in Oklahoma City on March 15.
A 12-year-old student at Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tennessee was the first person to report suspected inappropriate behavior between Thomas and Cummins. The 12-year-old reported to a school resource officer after seeing what was described as a “romantic peck” between then-teacher Cummins and his 15-year-old student Thomas on Jan. 23, according to court records.
The 12-year-old and another student confronted Cummins about his relationship with Thomas, the records show.
“The student related that Cummins rambled on and on about how much he loved his wife but indicated that (Thomas) sometimes went to church with him and his wife and that (Thomas) had a troubled past,” court records state.
Detectives and a school resource officer contacted Thomas’ father, Anthony, and got access to her call history. The teen’s cellphone showed brief contact with Cummins’ phone number on Jan. 31, court records state.
That day, detectives spoke with Thomas, who denied Cummins kissed her, records show.
Thomas claimed she had an argument with another teacher about going to the bathroom on the day of the reported kiss, Hardison wrote in court documents.
“Upset over the incident, she went to Cummins’ classroom,” the documents state. “(Thomas) indicated Cummins may have been consoling her when the student walked in. (Thomas) advised that Cummins possibly held both of her hands around the wrist area and may have been close to her face at the time, telling her she needed to calm down.”
The following day, Feb. 1, detectives interviewed Cummins, who described his relationship with Thomas as that of “a father figure at school,” the complaint states. After the kiss was reported, the school system order Cummins and Thomas not to have any contact.
On Feb. 3, Cummins was caught having Thomas in his classroom when other students were present. Three days later the teacher was suspended.
The morning of March 13, Cummins borrowed his wife’s Nissan Rogue, the vehicle that eventually would lead to his capture. Cummins told his wife he was going to a job interview at a medical center in Williamson County. Investigators later determined the interview was not actually scheduled.
Also that morning, Thomas was dropped off by a friend at a Shoney’s restaurant in Columbia. Cummins was seen on surveillance footage filling up the Nissan with gas at a nearby convenience store.
Later that day, investigators placed Cummins in Decatur, Alabama.
When Cummins’ wife, Jill, got home that evening, she found a note from her husband saying he was gone to Virgina Beach or the D.C. area to clear his head, according to the court records.
“He said he would be back and urged his wife not to call police,” the documents state. “Cummins denied doing anything wrong and asked his wife to forgive him. At the time, the wife did not contact police.”
When Thomas hadn’t arrived home by 10:30 p.m., her father called the Maury County Sheriff’s Office to report her missing, records show.
“The father told deputies he was concerned his daughter might be with Cummins,” the officer wrote in court records.
On the run
As of March 14 — the day after Cummins and Thomas disappeared — Amber Alerts had been issued in Tennessee and Alabama and Cummins was fired by the school system.
That morning, Cummins’ wife reported to the sheriff’s office that her husband hadn’t come home the night before, records show. She reported Cummins had taken out a $4,500 loan the week before, but the money was missing along with two guns, clothes and toiletries, records show.
Cummins and Thomas went undetected until March 29 when the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation got a call from a Super 8 Motel employee who reported Cummins had stayed at a location in Oklahoma City on March 15-16, the report states. Once investigators confirmed the hotel guest was Cummins, a witness told them he had asked for directions to Wal-Mart, court records state.
Investigators got surveillance footage from a Wal-Mart near Interstate 240 on March 30 and confirmed Cummins and Thomas had been inside the store 15 days earlier.
On April 1, investigators got a call from Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and learned Cummins booked a room in Guymon, Oklahoma on March 16-17. The room, the report says, had only one bed. Further investigation of that tip also led authorities to learn Thomas and Cummins visited another Wal-Mart store March 16, purchasing women’s razors, chocolate, cheese cubes and KY Jelly, the report states.
Captured in California
For weeks, authorities have been urging the public to remain vigilant in secluded or off-the-grid areas, as they expected Cummins was keeping Thomas somewhere out of the public’s eye.
And that’s exactly where the two were found — at a secluded cabin early Thursday morning in Siskiyou County, California near the Oregon border. The cabin is located in a remote area of the county, two hours away from the sheriff’s office. Authorities had a difficult time getting to the cabin, as there was snow on the ground, TBI officials have said.
Thomas is expected to be back in Tennessee with her family today.
Cummins is being held in federal custody on a charge of transportation of a minor across state lines for sexual intercourse. The charge carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. In Tennessee, Cummins is being charged with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor having sexual contact with a minor.
Officer Hardison notes in the affidavit that not all evidence and information about the incident is included in public court records.
“Because this affidavit is being submitted for a limited purpose, I have set forth only those facts necessary to establish probable cause for the offense,” Hardison wrote in the complaint. “Except where otherwise indicated, all statement referred to herein are set for in substance and in part, rather than verbatim and in full.”