On April 21, 2017, I appeared on HLN’s Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield with host, Jean Casarez, and colleague, Kisha Hebbon. Together, we provided legal analysis of the recent arrest of a Tennessee teacher who is charged with aggravated kidnapping, criminal sexual contact, and the federal crime of transporting a minor across state lines with the intent to have sexual intercourse.
Acting on a tip received by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, authorities in Siskiyou County, California found 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas and arrested Tad Cummins after locating the pair at a rural cabin in Cecilville.
Elizabeth was the subject of a Tennessee AMBER Alert issued in March, after having been allegedly kidnapped by Tad Cummins, a former teacher at her school in Maury County, Tennessee.
As discussed in the appearance, prosecutors and law enforcement have many different leads that must be investigated after the arrest.
First, the cabin in question must be processed with the goal of obtaining evidence that supports sexual activities. As a former prosecutor supervising the processing of crime scenes, I know that investigators will be looking for forensic evidence such as semen and the Cialis or K-Y Jelly that Cummins reportedly purchased in an Oklahoma Walmart.
Moreover, for over a month, Cummins and Elizabeth traveled across the county staying at hotels, contacting possible witnesses, and leaving important evidence behind. Investigators will be sure to follow the evidence trial and start putting together a timeline and collecting other evidence to be used in a criminal prosecution.
Additionally, investigators will be interviewing Elizabeth and getting as much information from her about where they have been and what Cummins has done to her as possible. Elizabeth’s testimony will be critical in the prosecution of Cummins.
Finally, investigators will attempt to interrogate Cummins to secure a confession to be used against him in a criminal trial. Investigators will be legally required to provide Cummins his Miranda warnings prior to any questioning as these warnings are guaranteed by the United States and State Constitutions.
At the time of the appearance, Cummins is only charged with the three state and federal charges. As a former prosecutor, I anticipate that there will be additional charges lodged against him in all the jurisdictions the two engaged in sexual conduct. Based on Elizbeth’s age, she was unable to provide legal consent to engage in sexual contact and/or intercourse. Therefore, Cummins committed a crime every time and in every state in which they had sexual relations. Cummins was also arrested with two firearms which will likely result in additional California state gun charges.