Elizabeth Thomas: Where is the Kidnapping Survivor Now?

With ’20/20: A Captive Student’ living up to its title by exploring the 2017 absconding of Elizabeth Thomas by her teacher Tad Cummins, we get a true insight into the dark side of human nature. After all, she was just 15 when the 50-year-old married father and grandfather managed to take her across state lines with the help of sheer force, physical threats, as well as sexual manipulation. It then took a little more than a month, but she was successfully rescued — so now, if you wish to learn more about the ordeal and her current standing, we’ve got the details for you.

Who is Elizabeth Thomas?

Although Elizabeth hails from a relatively big family within the small town of Culleoka, Tennessee, her childhood was reportedly not easy, happy, or even stable owing to maternal-domestic abuse. She was actually homeschooled while her father worked round the clock as an exterminator to provide for his five kids, per the ABC episode, unaware that their mother was harming them at every turn. It thus wasn’t until she and her sister contacted the authorities in 2016 that the latter was removed from the family residence, resulting in the young ones being enrolled in a public school.

Image Credit: Thomas Family/People

That’s when Elizabeth came across Tad as her health teacher, just to gradually begin confiding in him instead of classmates her own age since he was the only one kind to her in the sea of bullies. Little did she realize, though, that the married man she initially considered a father figure/mentor of sorts was merely laying down the extensive groundwork to groom her into his perfect partner. The teen did notice the interactions between them were growing intensely strange as he began commenting on her body and urged her not to seek counseling despite her wishes, but it was too late.

“Whenever I tried to seek mental help, he told me no,” Elizabeth said in the production. “I was feeling real low, and I was wanting to get on anti-depressants and try to go to a therapist. And he told me no and not to do it ’cause it’d change who I was.” Then there’s the fact he would often lie to her about being a killer, sext her, find ways to get her alone in his classroom, violate her, and manipulate her into believing he was the only adult who cared about her. “I was afraid to see him angry. He doesn’t take ‘no’ well,” she admitted, yet things changed once a fellow student saw them kissing.

Even though Tad was suspended following a brief investigation and ordered to stay away from Elizabeth, thanks to the student formally reporting the incident, he continued to contact her. The then-teen claimed, “Any time that I wouldn’t post for a few hours [on social media or respond to him], he would go crazy and say that I was cheating on him and saying if he found out that I was with another boy, he’d kill them… Sometimes he’d be threatening to kill himself or ending someone else’s life if I didn’t [run away with him]. He said if he couldn’t have me, he’d kill himself. Any time he threatened himself, he’d threaten my family.”

Therefore, Elizabeth was left with little choice when Tad made it clear he owned two guns before continuously urging her to follow his wishes, yet she did tell her sister to contact the police if she didn’t return by evening. The youngster thus went missing on March 13, 2017, leading to a nationwide Amber Alert being issued, while her captor did his best to avoid detection by dying his beard, having her color her hair, throwing out their cellphones, and taking out the GPS from his vehicle. He made stops in Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, as well as California, among other states, per her accounts, but his goal was to take her to Mexico.

Elizabeth once elucidated that throughout this period, the 50-year-old married male made her sleep naked, controlled what she ate, watched her like a hawk to ensure she couldn’t run, and also called her his “wife.” As if this isn’t enough, Tad sometimes “wouldn’t let me shower alone ’cause I had to be in the same space with him at the exact same time… He was really mean and said hurtful things a lot of the time.” But finally, following a total of 38 days, the police caught up with the duo in a cabin in rural Northern California, propelling the teen to detail her entire story unafraid.

Elizabeth Thomas is Focusing on Her Dreams and Family Today

While Tad eventually pleaded guilty to federal counts of transporting a minor for criminal sexual conduct and obstruction of justice, Elizabeth struggled with self-blame before recognizing she was not even a little at fault. It doesn’t matter if “the devil” spoke to him to pursue this incredibly inappropriate relationship — which was his defense in court — because it was he who always decided in the end, the teen asserted in her victim impact statement. “I was just a kid who wanted to make friends, but you were someone who had a plan,” she declared in the letter read aloud by a prosecutor mere minutes prior to Tad receiving 20 years in prison. “You saw a broken girl, who was lonely, scared, and traumatized… All you were was a man who wanted sex, and you manipulated me, used me just for that.”

Coming to her whereabouts, from what we can tell, Elizabeth continues to reside in her home county of Maury in Tennessee, where she’s currently leading a quiet life well away from the limelight. However, we can positively report she is gradually fulfilling the dreams she had for her life — she’s a happily married mother of one and is hence protecting her family to the best of her abilities. The 21-year-old, who now prefers to go by Liz Dirla, is no longer afraid of anything, yet the privacy equips her with safety, which is perfectly understandable for her to want, considering everything she has faced in the past.

Read More: Is Elizabeth Thomas Married? Who is Her Husband?