NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tad Cummins, the 50-year-old Maury County man accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Thomas, appeared in a Tennessee courtroom for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
During the brief hearing, Cummins said he understood the charges against him and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Friday in Nashville.
He’ll be appointed an attorney.
Dressed in a gray and white striped jumpsuit, Cummins was shackled at both his hands and feet. He was seen smiling when his adult daughters and sisters walked into the courtroom.
As he was leaving, Cummins said “I love you” to his daughters.
His wife, Jill, who has filed for divorce, was not in attendance, nor was the Thomas family.
Cummins, who has been held in a jail in Henderson, Kentucky, since Monday afternoon, arrived in Nashville in a white van with blacked out windows Tuesday morning. It is unclear if he will be returned to that facility until his Friday hearing.
Cummins was arrested in northern California last month after a 38-day manhunt. He and 15-year-old Thomas were found staying at a small cabin in a remote area of the state.
The former school teacher has been in federal custody since April 20 and Thomas has since been returned to Tennessee and reunited with her family.
He’s charged with transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of criminal sexual intercourse.
News 2 also went to Culleoka on Tuesday, where Cummins was a teacher. It’s a small town of about 5,000 people now in the national spotlight.
Two parents whose children were taught by Cummins said they’re ready for things to return to the way they were before.
“They have got her back home. I don’t want to say her name or anything, but they have got her back home with her family, and if he sentenced to anything or whatever, I hope he has time to think about what he has done,” said Amanda Cates, whose daughter was taught by the former Culleoka Unit School teacher.
“It is just messed up. For such a small town, and where we live, I think it took everyone for surprise. We weren’t expecting that, and getting all this national coverage is weird. We are such a small town; we don’t even have a red light,” added Ronald Cates.