What Tad Cummins' journey back to Tennessee will look like

A tip called into authorities helped them track down a middle-Tennessee teen that's been missing for more than a month, and her accused abductor. (4/20/17 5 p.m.)

Tad Cummins, the 50-year-old former Maury County teacher accused of abducting a 15-year-old student last month, will return to Tennessee by air, but it is unclear when, federal authorities confirmed Tuesday.

Cummins is charged with kidnapping Elizabeth Thomas in early March, taking her from a restaurant near her home in Columbia, Tennessee and eluding law enforcement for 38 days before they were captured last week in Cecilville, California.

Elizabeth was resting at home on Tuesday and loved ones are focused on her recovery, according to the attorney representing her family. Special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation returned the girl home to Columbia, Tenn. on Friday.

Where Cummins is being held now

Cummins, of Columbia, Tenn., has been in federal custody at the Sacramento County jail since Friday, said Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of California. Prior to that he'd been in the custody of the Siskiyou County, Calif. sheriff, which is a remote area of Northern California where they were discovered.

Court papers filed Tuesday show Cummins was represented by a public defender in California.

Documents filed in federal court just one day earlier revealed Cummins planned to take his former student to Mexico before venturing to other countries, and may have had the means to do it. They also revealed Cummins admitted to switching vehicle license plates twice, disabling his vehicle's GPS system, using aliases, altering his appearance, using only cash and sticking to back roads during his nearly six weeks on the run.

MORETad Cummins planned to take Elizabeth Thomas to Mexico, court documents say

Federal authorities filed the documentation as a way to justify why Cummins should be held in custody until trial. The judge agreed and ordered Cummins remain jailed and be transferred back to Tennessee as soon as possible.

The travel plan from California

Cummins will be shackled and transported from the jail to an airport where he'll board a U.S. Marshal-owned air plane, said Daniel T. Shelton, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service.

"He'll likely then be flown to another (undisclosed) location, then eventually will be transported to Tennessee," Shelton said Tuesday.

For his own safety reasons, federal authorities would not disclose what day Cummins will depart California or when he will arrive in Tennessee.

The next steps in Tennessee

Once he arrives in Tennessee, Cummins will be transported to an undisclosed facility in the Middle District of Tennessee, Shelton said.

"We have some in Kentucky and some in Tennessee," he said.

Shelton added Cummins will then be transferred to U.S. District Court in Nashville for an appearance to make sure he has an attorney in Tennessee.

As of Tuesday morning that hearing had not been scheduled in federal court.

If convicted on the federal charge of transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual activity, Cummins faces anywhere from 10 years in prison to a life sentence.

Dave Boucher contributed to this report. Reach Natalie Alund at nalund@tennessean.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

Tennessean


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