The former Tennessee teacher who authorities say kidnapped his 15-year-old student then spent over a month on the run with her will remain in jail until his trial, a judge decided today.
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Tad Cummins, 50, a married father and grandfather, went missing with 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas on March 13, authorities said. An Amber Alert was issued for Elizabeth, and Cummins was wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor.
The two were found in northern California on April 20; the teen was "healthy and unharmed," authorities said and Cummins was taken into custody.
Prosecutors allege that Cummins, who is accused of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, planned to flee to Mexico with the teen.
Cummins did not enter a plea. His attorney, Dumaka Shabazz, said that while Cummins’ family does not condone the allegations against him, they are still providing "moral" and "emotional" support.
"I believe there's a lot of questions that have been unanswered," he said. "We will follow up on those until we get to the bottom of this case."
Shabazz added that he does not believe Cummins is a flight risk.
An FBI agent told the court today that on March 12, the day before the pair disappeared, Cummins told his wife, Jill Cummins, that he had a job interview and needed to borrow her car.
Jill Cummins agreed to swap cars, but became concerned the next day while at work and waiting for her husband to bring back the vehicle. She then called the medical center where Cummins said he was going for a job interview, but the center knew nothing about it.
Jill Cummins and her daughter then headed home and found a note, the agent said, and also noticed that Cummins' clothes, two handguns, and loan money he had claimed to have taken out to pay bills were missing.
Cummins and Elizabeth first fled to Alabama, where they reportedly threw their phones into the Tennessee River. The agent said they then went to Mississippi, where they spent their first night on the run, and then Oklahoma -- where they were caught on surveillance video at a local Walmart.
The pair stayed at Super 8 motels in each city, the FBI agent said, and Cummins used his real driver's license when checking in each time.
In Colorado the duo used aliases of John and Joanne Castro and told strangers they were married, the agent said. They used the fake names because they hoped to go to Mexico and the last name sounds Hispanic, according to the agent.
Cummins and Elizabeth then spent one night in Canyon City, Colorado and another night in Cortez, Colorado, the agent said. They were spotted on surveillance cameras at a Walmart in Cortez, where Cummins is seen buying a tablet computer to monitor the news coverage of their disappearance.
Cummins said he became sad after seeing a plea from his wife, according to the agent.
The two then went to Utah for three to four nights, before heading to Nevada for one night and then on to Southern California. The FBI agent said the ex-teacher and teen then headed to southern California where they bought a two-person kayak for $1,500. They planned to kayak to Mexico after doing a dry run in the Coronado Bay.
There, the two engaged with a police officer. Cummins thought they would be caught, the agent said. But the officer was simply worried about the pair, and didn't realize who they were.
Cummins was certain they would be captured if they attempted to travel to Mexico by land, but still he sold the kayak to someone at a bar in Los Angeles for $400 and the two then went to Slab City, California, where they stayed at a commune for one night. Cummins was concerned for his safety there and slept with his gun, the agent said.
The two left Slab City the following day, and authorities ultimately located them in northern California about two weeks later.
Cummins, who was fired one day after the alleged kidnapping, had reportedly researched teen marriage online, specifically the age of consent, according to law enforcement officials.
One of Elizabeth's schoolmates reported seeing her and Cummins kiss in his classroom on Jan. 23, according to a school district investigative report, but both denied this claim. A school report from January said neither one "admitted to behaving inappropriately towards the other."
Elizabeth’s father, Anthony Thomas, told ABC News after Elizabeth was found, “She may not be exactly ... the person she was because there’s a lot of experiences she’s had."
"I think she has the determination to really go somewhere in life," he said. "But right now she really needs a lot of help."