SACRAMENTO (AP) — A Tennessee teacher charged with kidnapping a 15-year-old student and driving her to California had planned to take the girl to Mexico and took a boat from San Diego on a test run, according to federal court documents filed Monday.
Authorities credit the caretaker of a remote northern California property for helping police find the girl Thursday and arrest her alleged abductor, fired teacher Tad Cummins. She has returned home and is being treated by a team of therapists.
Cummins is charged with taking a minor across states lines to have sex. He is due in court Monday afternoon.
In carrying out his “audacious scheme,” the 50-year-old Cummins switched vehicle license plates twice, disabled his vehicle’s GPS system, used aliases, altered his appearance, paid only in cash and used back roads during his nearly six weeks on the run, according to the documents. Prosecutors say Cummins’ is a flight and safety risk and they want him held until his trial.
The Associated Press is not naming the girl because she is an alleged victim of a sex crime.
Cummins left Tennessee because he was worried about an investigation into his relationship with the girl, the documents said.
After taking out a loan for $4,500, court records said, the teacher took the money and two handguns and wrote a note to his wife saying he needed to go to Virginia Beach or the Washington, D.C., area to clear his head.
But instead of going to the beach, police said he picked up the student in Columbia, Tennessee, in his wife’s car on the morning of March 13 and headed west.
“From the moment the defendant was suspected of his improper relationship in early 2017, he began plotting his escape with the juvenile victim,” the records said.
On Thursday, a northern California man became suspicious of the two people he initially thought were in distress and helped lead police to Cummins.
Griffin Barry said the pair told him their names were John and Joanna and they needed money for food, gas and a place to stay, ABC News Good Morning America reported Friday. But Barry, 29, said he became suspicious when the older man tried to keep the teen away.
The girl’s father has told news media he believes his daughter was brainwashed.
Cummins also faces state charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. If convicted of the federal charge, he faces at least 10 years in prison, acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith said.
Before disappearing, Cummins was investigated by the school system when another student reported seeing the then-married teacher kiss the girl at the Culleoka Unit School. Culleoka is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Nashville near the Alabama state line.
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