Lawyer: Abducted girl's recovery just starting

Carolyn Kaster  AP

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says health sciences teacher Tad Cummins surrendered to sheriff's deputies Thursday without incident in Cecilville, California.

When authorities closed in on Cummins and Elizabeth at the remote cabin, Sheriff Jon E. Lopey told the AP, Elizabeth was "laughing, crying and acting stoic".

Anthony Thomas, the teen's father, told "Good Morning America" on Friday that he thinks his daughter was brainwashed. "It's kind of distressing to see her like that".

Cummins faces federal and state charges.

A family lawyer says the "process of recovery is only just beginning" for a 15-year-old Tennessee student who was allegedly kidnapped by her teacher and taken cross-country to California.

Thomas added he hadn't had the opportunity to speak with his daughter yet but plans to talk with her sometime Friday.

According to the Daily Mail, 50-year-old Tad Cummins took Elizabeth Thomas to Black Bear Ranch near Cecilville in Siskiyou County. "Thanks go to all who have kept the message of finding Elizabeth Thomas and working on her safe return as top-of-mind throughout the nation".

Cummins' estranged wife, Jill Cummins, was "very emotional" when she learned both were found safe, her attorney Michael Cox said. "She didn't act like a rescued person would act", showing no signs of elation, he said.


"It is believed based on the investigation to date, as set forth herein, that Cummins, age 50, and victim, age 15, are involved in a sexual relationship and traveled in interstate commerce to continue their relationship and to engage in unlawful sexual activity", the criminal complaint against Cummins says.

Authorities have surveillance video from a Walmart in Oklahoma City from March 15 showing the pair, and images of Cummins purchasing women's razors, chocolates and a "commonly used lubricant for sexual intercourse", according to the criminal complaint. The teacher, however, acknowledged that the girl was "a really good friend and she does leave her other classes to come see him when she needs someone to calm her down", according to a school report dated January 30.

"John (Cummins) didn't offer to help out, they did help with the chickens one time and did the dishes a couple of times, but they seemed lazy, they didn't want to do anything", Sophia said, noting that commune rules require residents to work a minimum of four hours per day. After Griffin Barry became suspicious of two people he initially thought were in distress, his tip led police to the teacher accused of kidnapping his student and taking her on a 2,500-mile cross-country journey. That afternoon, investigators say, they determined that Elizabeth was 80 miles away in Decatur, Ala. The report also recommended that the administration monitor Cummins' classroom to make sure students weren't there when they weren't supposed to be.

The TBI said Cummins might be keeping Elizabeth out of sight of authorities, possibly sleeping in his vehicle or in a rural community.

On Thursday morning, Barry asked Cummins to come outside and help him build a rock wall on the property.

That hasn't happened yet, the father said. "Now begins another hard chapter, but for now, we celebrate". "We're also grateful for the public's support and vigilance throughout this search effort".

The teen returned to Tennessee on Friday and is now in a "safe location with family and friends where she is comfortable and resting", said Jason Whatley, who is representing the Thomas family.

"We are beyond elated", he said.

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