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Tenn. Teen Confronts Teacher Who Kidnapped, Abused Her: 'What You Did to Me Is Unspeakable'

People logo People 1/17/2019 Chris Harris
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The former Tennessee teacher who kidnapped his 15-year-old student in 2017 and fled with her across the country for 38 days was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison Wednesday, multiple outlets report.

Tad Cummins was 50 and married in March 2017 when he kidnapped Elizabeth Thomas, a student in his health sciences class at Culleoka Unit School.

Last April, Cummins pleaded guilty to federal counts of transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in criminal sexual conduct and obstruction of justice.

Before Cummins’ sentencing in a Nashville courtroom, a prosecutor read a statement from Elizabeth describing the emotional turmoil she endures daily as a result of what she described as his “unspeakable” crimes, CNN reports.

“The effects have been devastating and permanent, and they are not over,” reads the victim impact statement from Elizabeth, now 17. “Mr. Cummins, what you did to me is unspeakable. I don’t know that any words could ever accurately express how much pain I have suffered and continue to suffer because of you.”

Elizabeth’s abduction generated national headlines when the girl was reported missing. Prior to that, Cummins was suspended from his job after a student spotted him kissing Elizabeth on school grounds.

The pair were eventually discovered in Northern California, holed up in a four-wall shack, and Cummins was arrested.

Upon his release from prison, Cummins will be required to register as a sex offender.

Prior to her disappearance, authorities and Elizabeth’s family said Cummins played the role of mentor, and spent months grooming the girl, pressuring her into spending time with him.

“When I started school, you picked me out of the crowd,” Elizabeth wrote in her statement, according to The Tennessean. “I was just a kid who wanted to make friends, but you were someone who had a plan. You saw a broken girl, who was lonely, scared, and traumatized.

“You made her feel safe and loved because you saw what she needed and made her believe you would be her ‘protector.’ I was at a point in my life where I needed to be protected the most And when it came down to it, that was all a part of your plan. All you were was a man who wanted sex, and you manipulated me and used me just for that.”

a couple of people posing for the camera: Elizabeth Thomas, Tad Cummins | TBI

Elizabeth Thomas, Tad Cummins | TBI
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RELATED: Teen Girl Who Was ‘Groomed’ Then Taken by Teacher: ‘If I Didn’t Go, Something Bad Would Happen’

According to a court petition filed by Elizabeth’s father, Cummins picked her up from her home on more than one occasion to go out for a meal, “threatening her that if she did not go with him she would face repercussions at school.”

In her statement, Elizabeth said Cummins told her “the devil made” him pursue an inappropriate relationship with her. “But if that’s true, then you are the devil,” the statement continues. “Your choices were yours and yours alone. A 17-year-old girl should not have to tell a 52-year-old man this, but choices have consequences. Your choices destroyed not just my family, but also yours.”

RELATED: Tenn. Teacher Who Kidnapped Teen Student Tearfully Pleads Guilty, Says He Wants to Be ‘the Man I Need to Be’

Not long after his arrest, Cummins’ wife filed for divorce.

“You act like you care now and that you’re full of all this regret, but where was any of that before?,” Elizabeth asks in her statement. “Where was any of that when you first had me alone in your classroom and told me you wanted to see me naked? Where was any of that when you directed me into your classroom closet and violated me over and over again for months? Where was any of that when you spent untold amounts of time and effort into manipulating, pressuring, and deceiving me into thinking that you were the only person who cared about me? Where was any of that when I told you I was depressed and wanted to see a therapist, but you talked me out of it? Where was any of that when you convinced me to get in the car with you on March 13, 2017? Where was any of that when you sexually assaulted me night after night? Where was any of that when you made me sleep without my clothes on? Where was any of that when you made the decision to keep me away from my home and my family not once, not twice, but for 38 straight days?”

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The statement, CBS News reports, expresses doubt about the sincerity of Cummins’ apologies, and questions if he even regrets anything he has done.

“I will have to live with the scars you left on me forever,” she wrote. “You preyed upon a vulnerable girl and robbed her childhood. For the last two years, I’ve been picking myself up, piece by piece, and proving to myself that I am much, much stronger than you convinced me I was.”

NBC News also cites Elizabeth’s statement, which discusses how she’s found the path to healing.

“I choose to surround myself with people who pick me up, who cherish me, and who truly love me,” Elizabeth wrote in her statement. “Because of that, I’m able to stand here today, face you, and tell you that you don’t have the power over me that you used to have. You can’t hurt me anymore.”

RELATED: Tennessee Teen’s Family Sues Ex-Teacher Accused of Grooming, Kidnapping and Sexually Abusing Her

Elizabeth asked the court to sentence Cummins to 38 years, according to reports — a year for every day of her abduction.

“He chose to be a sexual predator,” her statement continues. “He chose to prey on me, knowing the problems I had in my home life, and he convinced me that I was weak. He chose to belittle me, degrade me, and abuse me. There is no doubt in my mind that if Mr. Cummins had never been caught, he would have eventually discarded me like a piece of trash and made another impressionable young woman his next chosen victim. Tad Cummins is a sick, disgusting criminal.”

Elizabeth’s family’s civil lawsuit against Cummins is still pending in court.

The Tennessean reports Cummins appeared emotional in court Wednesday, and spoke before his sentencing.

He said that he’d “made every wrong choice I could possibly make,” and added, “I’m here to say that I fully own every piece of this. It is all on me.”

Cummins also apologized to Elizabeth and her family.

“If there’s ever anything that I can do to give you closure, I stand ready. But I know there’s not,” he said. “I just want you to know I’m sorry.”

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