A federal judge has condemned a married Tennessee teacher who fled for weeks with a 15-year-old student to 20 years in prison after his victim sued him.
Tad Cummins, 52, pleaded guilty in April of 2018 for obstructing justice and taking a minor over state borders for sex.
Prosecutors said that Cummins abused a vulnerable girl with a history of abuse and neglect when he cultivated a sexual relationship with her, in a conviction memorandum filed on Monday, requesting a 30-year sentence.
The teenage victim, Elizabeth Thomas, who is now 17, told the authorities that she and Cummins had sex every day while traveling from state to state & # 39 ;, the Tennessean told more than 38 days between March 13 and April 20 .
& # 39; When I went to school, you picked me out of the crowd. I was just a kid who wanted to make friends, but you were someone who had a plan, "Thomas said in court during her victim's impact, according to Radar Online.
& # 39; You saw a broken girl who was lonely, scared and traumatized. You felt that she felt safe and loved because you saw what she needed and made her believe that her & # 39; protector & # 39; would be. & # 39;
Thomas revealed earlier in an interview with ABC 20/20 that she felt she should go with Cummins or that he would do something drastic, and that during the cross-country drive a pistol in the console of the car loved and she knew she could not & # 39; t escape.
Cummins' punishment of two decades was pronounced on Wednesday by American district judge Aleta Trauger in Nashville.
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A federal judge sentenced Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins, 52, who was on a flight with a 15-year-old student for weeks, to 20 years in prison. Cummins is pictured to the right on a booking photo published on 20 April 2017 by the Sheriff's Office of Siskiyou County. Victim Elizabeth Thomas, now 17, is pictured on the left
The victim influence of Thomas showed with how much trauma she had to deal with, after months of care and seizures by Cummins.
& # 39; You pretend to care about you and that you are full of all this regret, but where was that all before? & # 39; Thomas asked in court, according to the statement obtained by Burton Staggs from the Tennessee River Valley News.
& # 39; Where was one of those things when you first held me in your classroom for the first time and hurt me for months? Where was one of that when you spent untold amount of time and effort manipulating, pressuring and deceiving me to think that you were the only person who cared about me? & # 39;
Thomas went on: "All you were was a man who wanted sex, and you manipulated me and used me just for that.
& # 39; But the truth is, however long you have to serve, you will never be able to undo what you have done to me. I will have to live with the scars you left behind forever. & # 39;
Cummins argued for the first time not guilty of the accusations against him in May 2017, but changed his plea without closing a deal with prosecutors after an investigation, consultation and personal reflection, & # 39; wrote federal public defender Dumaka Shabazz in a official report.
In a letter to his wife, Jill, written from behind bars on July 31, 2017, Cummins wrote: & # 39; I am the culprit of everything & # 39 ;, while adding that & # 39; the devil was deeply involved & # 39; 39 ;.
Cummins met the teenager when she studied at the Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tennessee.
Cummins (left) met Thomas (right) when she studied at the Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tennessee. Cummins & # 39; 30-year-old woman, Jill Cummins, said earlier that she saw Thomas as her third daughter, and she believed that her relationship with her husband was related to that of a parent and child
In a letter to his wife, Jill (left), written from behind bars on July 31, 2017, Cummins wrote (right): & # 39; I am the culprit of everything & # 39 ;, while I add that & # 39; the devil was deeply involved & # 39;
On 13 March Thomas was reported missing on the same day that Tat Cummins left a note for his wife who told her not to call the police, and said he had to leave the city to clear his head.
Thomas told ABC that Cummins and his 30-year-old wife took her in charge after her mother, Kimberly, was accused of child abuse and neglect of the teen and her sister, Sarah.
Jill Cummins said earlier that she saw Elizabeth as her third daughter, and she believed that her relationship with her husband was related to that of a parent and child.
But things one day took a strange turn in the school canteen when Elizabeth said that Cummins, who was a high school teacher, made a disturbing remark to her.
& # 39; I stood there with a few friends … and then they said: & # 39; Are you hungry? & # 39; And I said, "I have no soul or if I did, I was hungry," or something, "Thomas said.
& # 39; And then he came to me and he pointed to me and said: "My soul sees your soul." & # 39;
Nevertheless, Thomas says that Cummins gave her the feeling that no one else cared about her as he did. He also prevented her from seeking help with mental health care.
I felt very low and wanted to use antidepressants and try to go to a therapist. And he told me no and not to do it because it would change who I was, "she remembered.
Thomas revealed that she and her married mentor exchanged sexually explicit messages on Instagram, and one day during class he said to her: & # 39; You look pretty nice naked, & # 39; she said.
There were no other students present at that time.
She also described the first time Cummins kissed her, which, she said, was when she realized it was going too far.
"He grabbed my face. I was right next to the double doors that I had. I was 15. Because I was home, I did not really have a boyfriend, "she said.
& # 39; When that happened, it was a bit: & # 39; wow & # 39;. & # 39;
It is believed that Cummins had sex with Thomas in the closet of his class before he was suspended.
Cummins would have persuaded Thomas to come with him and destroy both phones, so that their whereabouts could not be traced when they walked to a remote hut near Cecilville in California. Cummins (left) and Thomas (right) are shown while on the run, captured on images of surveillance cameras on a Walmart in 2017
Despite knowing that their relationship was taboo, the teenager said she had never told anyone because she did not pay attention.
I was afraid, I do not want to tell my parent that a grown man kissed me and I do not want to tell friends that a grown man kissed me.
I do not like the spotlight on me & # 39 ;, she said.
Thomas also said that she was afraid to anger Cummins.
& # 39; He does not accept "no", "she said in the interview.
The two fled after Cummins was suspended from the school on February 6, 2017, after a 12-year-old student reported that Cummins had kissed the teenager on January 23 of that year.
During his suspension, Cummins would force the teenager to call him at regular intervals and text him, Thomas said.
"And every time I did not post a few hours, he would go mad and say that I was cheating on him and said that if he found out that I was with another boy, he would kill them, & # 39; said Thomas.
Thomas also said that she had the feeling that she should go with Cummins or that he would do something drastic, that he would hold a gun in the car's console and that she knew she could not escape
In the end, Thomas says that Cummins told her to walk away with him, otherwise he would kill herself or someone else, including her family.
Thomas said the teacher had two guns and that he would threaten her with it.
Thomas felt himself fall into a trap and said that she reluctantly agreed to go with Cummins for fear that he would do something drastic if she did not.
On March 13, Thomas was reported missing on the same day that Cummins left a note for his wife who told her not to call the police and said he had to leave the city to clear his head.
Cummins would have persuaded Thomas to come with him and destroy both phones, so that their whereabouts could not be traced when they walked to a remote hut near Cecilville in California.
& # 39; As soon as we left, he put a gun in the center console and I knew I was not getting out of the car, & # 39; said Thomas. "He let me throw my phone from a bridge and his phone so that the police could not follow us."
Thomas compared the ordeal with a kidnapping and described in detail the control behavior of Cummins, always keeping her by his side, even if she was going to use the bathroom or shower and told her what to eat.
He told me he likes skinny girls, & # 39; she said, adding that she often got hungry.
In the days after he fled with the teenager, they were seen on security cameras that went into a Walmart where they bought hair dyes to change Elizabeth's appearance.
They also bought cheese cubes, K-Y jelly, female razors and chocolate.
He later bought a two-seat kayak, allegedly for a failed plan to escape to Panama, and an iPad to try and follow media coverage of their case, according to prosecutors.
When they stayed in motels, Thomas said Cummins let her sleep naked next to him and keep her clothes separate so she could not leave.
"He was very mean and often said hurtful things," she said about Cummins. He sometimes called me his wife and said that we were going to get married and that I would live with him until I died. & # 39;
Public prosecutors noted in documents that Cummins had no plans to end his sexual relationship with the teenager before being caught in the cabin (photo) and was arrested on April 20, 2017
Prosecutors noted that Cummins had no plans to end his sexual relationship with the teenager before being caught in the cabin and arrested on April 20, 2017.
Authorities were warned of their presence in the cabin by a neighbor who became suspicious when she saw that the car without license plate was being operated by Cummins and the very young looking Thomas in the vehicle, the Tennessean reported at the time of Cummins' arrest.
The two would have stayed in the cabin for a week before the deputies of Siskiyou County arrested Sheriff Cummins.
We are all stoked that she was found & # 39 ;, owner Michael & # 39; Monk & # 39; O & # 39; Hare, who was not on the premises while Cummins and Thomas lived there, said at the time.
& # 39; We are a fairly tight small community that is hours from the nearest police department. We pulse our own community with dedication. Neighbors, friends and members of the community. & # 39;
By pleading in vain for the minimum sentence of 10 years, the Cummins legal team noticed that he had no previous criminal history.
His lawyers also said that if Cummins had not left the state with his victim, he would probably have been sentenced to only 2-4 years in prison.
Thomas (right) is now engaged to Skylar Dirla (left), who finished high school last year. The two started dating in March and Dirla asked Thomas to marry him in September. This photo of the proposal is obtained by DailyMailTV
A civil lawsuit is also pending against Cummins and Maury County Public Schools, brought by Thomas's father.
The lawsuit claims that the school district ignored signs that Cummins had an inappropriate relationship with Thomas.
Thomas is now engaged to Skylar Dirla, who finished high school last year. The two started dating in March and Dirla asked Thomas to marry him in September, with photos from the DailyMailTV proposal.
The two fell in love when working in a seafood restaurant in their native city of Columbia, Tennessee.
A civil lawsuit is also pending against Cummins and Maury County Public Schools, brought by Thomas's father, referring to the school district's ignored signs Cummins had an improper relationship with Thomas. Thomas (right) is depicted with fiancé Dirla (left)