Tennessee teen allegedly kidnapped by former teacher speaks out: 'It's good and bad'

Posted at 1:43 PM, Sep 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-27 13:43:49-04

Elizabeth Thomas, the Tennessee teenager allegedly kidnapped by her former teacher, said she doesn't regret leaving town with him in her first interview since being rescued.

"I don’t regret it, nor do I say it was the right thing to do," Elizabeth Thomas told the Columbia Daily Herald over five months after she was found. "It was an experience I'll have to live with the rest of my life. It's good and bad. It's there. No matter what we do, we’ll have to deal with it."

On March 13, Thomas went missing with Tad Cummins, then 50, a married father and grandfather. An Amber Alert was issued and police across the country searched for more than a month before finding them thousands of miles away in California.

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Cummins, who was fired from his teaching job one day after the alleged kidnapping, had allegedly researched teen marriage online and specifically the age of consent, according to law enforcement officials. One of Thomas' schoolmates reported seeing her and Cummins kiss in his classroom on Jan. 23, according to a school district investigative report, but both denied the claim. A school report from January said that neither one "admitted to behaving inappropriately towards the other."

Thomas and Cummins were found on April 20 at a remote cabin in northern California; the teen was "healthy and unharmed," authorities said, and Cummins was taken into custody.

James Bennett, the editor of the Columbia Daily Herald, wrote that his interview with Thomas was spontaneous, and happened when he spotted her in a fast-food restaurant. She was wearing pajama bottoms and a T-shirt and was with two children she was babysitting, the Columbia Daily Herald reported.

Bennett had not responded to ABC News' request for comment at the time of publication.

Thomas, who told the Columbia Daily Herald she did not want to talk about Cummins' case, said she spent 78 days in therapy after her return.

She said she's now "happy to be back" and is glad "people are so accepting," according to the paper.

She added that she is currently being homeschooled and hopes to be a medical examiner, according to the Columbia Daily Herald.

Cummins, who is currently in jail, is facing federal charges of taking a minor across state lines for sex and obstruction of justice, as well as state charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. He has pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to begin in January.

Cummins allegedly plotted their getaway from the moment he was suspected of having an improper relationship with the teen, federal prosecutors allege. Prosecutors said Cummins planned to reach the Mexico border and then head to countries further south.

Cummins' wife has filed for divorce.