It was one of the most talked about stories in Middle Tennessee last year -- a teenager and her 50-year-old teacher disappeared together. One year since they disappeared, we're taking a look back at the case of teacher Tad Cummins.
The girl was reported missing after being dropped off by a friend at the Shoney's in Columbia, Tenn., on March 13, 2017. An AMBER Alert was issued the following day.
They left Maury County together and traveled nearly 2,000 miles across the country, making it all the way to California before they were apprehended.
"Your prayers and support are deeply appreciated," attorney Jason Whatley read from a family's statement in March 2017. "As a family, we are focused on one thing and one thing only, quick and safe return."
Whatley read the statement just days after that family's 15-year-old daughter disappeared with her teacher Tad Cummins.
"He's 50, she's 15," said Josh DeVine of the TBI, speaking at a press conference days after the two disappeared. "He was in a position of authority. She was a high school student. We believe this teen is in danger. We want her home. We want him in custody."
Maury County Public Schools claimed Cummins was suspended from Culleoka High School once they were made aware of allegations of an inappropriate relationship with the girl.
However, Whatley, the family's lawyer, argued the school system waited nearly two weeks for that suspension.
"Don't delay and then tell the public they did not, which is what they did," Whatley said. "They can't do this."
The girl's father eventually sued Cummins and the school board.
While the two were missing for more than a month, there were dozens of vigils and pleas for Cummins to come forward from the community, law enforcement, advocacy groups and others, including his wife.
"Tad, this is not you," said Jill Cummins in a March 2017 press conference. "This is not who you are. We can help you get through this."
Finally, in April, Cummins and the girl were found living in a cabin in a Northern California commune.
"When they showed up, they were very scared," one resident told News4 in April. "He was shaking. They seemed like they were on the run or something."
Cummins was arrested. The girl was returned to her family.
However, the case did bring about some positive changes in the district where Cummins taught.
In May, Maury County released a new checklist of investigative procedures for filing complaints against an employee.
The district now requires school officials to submit written statements, notify authorities and parents of allegations and maintain a file of the complaint.
Training took place for the county's employees in July.
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