FBI: Ex-Teacher, Teen Planned to Paddle to Mexico

FBI: Ex-teacher, teen planned to paddle to Mexico 

A former teacher and his student, who vanished from middle Tennessee in March and sparked a 39-day hunt for the 15-year-old girl, planned to paddle to Mexico from Coronado Island in San Diego, CNN reported.

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Tad Cummins and his student, missing since March 13, threw their phones in the Tennessee River, switched licenses plates and disabled their car's GPS device to avoid detection, an FBI agent said. The fugitives were found 1,900 miles away from their Tennessee homes on April 20 at a remote cabin in the northern California town of Cecilville, WRCB reported.

Cummins faces a charge of taking a minor across state lines for the purpose of sexual activity, and will remain in jail until his trial, a judge ruled Friday. FBI agent Utley Noble told CNN that Cummins admitted to having sexual contact with teen “most nights,”

Cummins also bought a tablet to keep up with news on their disappearance, along with a two-person kayak worth $1,500, Noble said. After paddling to Mexico, Cummins and the teen were going to use aliases of a married couple — John and Joanne Castro — so they could blend into the population, Noble said.

They also allegedly switched license plate tags from Tennessee to Alabama, then from Alabama to Colorado, CNN reported.

Before he disappeared, Cummins left his wife a note saying he had gone to Virginia Beach to clear his head, CNN reported.

"Don't call the police. They'll think I ran because I'm guilty and I'm not!" the note said.

Jill Cummins filed for divorce from her husband in late April, citing irreconcilable differences.

Cummins and the girl disappeared March 13 amid a police investigation into their relationship. Cummins, a former high school health sciences teacher in Culleoka, Tennessee, had been suspended in February after a student reported him and the teen kissing in a classroom, CNN reported. 

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Cummins refilled a prescription for Cialis, took out a cash loan, and made hotel reservations in Oklahoma, actions investigators say show he was planning to leave with the girl.

He was fired the day after they disappeared.

Tennessee law allows children older than 12 to decide whether to leave their families unless their removal or confinement "is accomplished by force, threat or fraud," CNN reported. 

If convicted on a charge of taking a minor across state lines, Cummins faces a minimum of 10 years in prison.

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