During an appearance in federal court on Tuesday, Tad Cummins, the former teacher accused of abducting a teen girl, asked for a public defender.
People reports that Cummins, 50, had his first court appearance in Nashville since being extradited from California. His daughters and sister attended the hearing, and Cummins mouthed an “I love you” to the trio as he made his way into the courtroom. Jill Cummins, his soon to be ex-wife, did not attend the hearing.
Cummins asked for a public defender during the hearing, affirming that he didn’t have the means to hire a private lawyer. He’s facing charges that if convicted, could land him in prison for life. He’s charged with one felony count of “transporting a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity,” as well as two state charges of abducting and grooming 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth allegedly opened up to an undisclosed source recently, while at a treatment facility for trauma victims in Tennessee. The teen supposedly told the source that she was in love with Cummins and was angry that her family went to such extreme measures to get her back home.
The Thomas family lawyer, Jason Whatley, however, indicated that Elizabeth never went with Cummins voluntarily. He said the girl was “groomed” for numerous months before Tad abducted her.
“This is classic grooming and manipulation. And I predict this case will be studied years in the future about how authority figures like Tad Cummins can mess up young children who believe their lies and are manipulated into doing things they would never do.”
The ex-teacher was captured in Siskiyou County, California, on April 20. He was living “off the grid” with Elizabeth in a small remote cabin that lacked electricity and running water. Elizabeth reportedly ate wildflowers on several occasions for nourishment after her former teacher ran out of money.
Cummins’ next court appearance is scheduled for Friday.
[Feature Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation]