Tad Cummins, who ran off with teen student, weeps as he pleads guilty


Tad Cummins wept in court on Thursday as the former Tennessee teacher pleaded guilty to having sex with his teenage student and taking her across state lines, triggering a headline-grabbing nationwide manhunt last spring.

"I cannot be the man I need to be and not tell the truth," the 51-year-old former Tennessee teacher told a judge, nearly a year after his initial not guilty plea in May 2017 to charges he had sex with the 15-year-old victim and convinced her to flee the state with him.

Cummins faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for crossing state lines for sex with a minor. Additionally, he faces up to 20 years for obstruction of justice for destroying his and his former student’s cellphone when he fled with her.

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Elizabeth Thomas and Tad Cummins case
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Elizabeth Thomas and Tad Cummins case
Tad Cummins, 50, a former Tennessee high school teacher accused of abducting a 15-year-old student in March, seen in this booking photo after his arrest by Siskiyou County Sheriff?s Department?s Special Response Team (SRT) in Cecilville area of Siskiyou County, California, U.S. on April 20, 2017. Courtesy SCSO/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey announces the arrest of fugitive Tad Cummins, a former high school teacher accused of kidnapping 15 year old student Elizabeth Thomas, in Yreka, California, U.S. April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
#TNAMBERAlert: She's a high school freshman. He was a teacher accused of kidnapping her. Let's find her now! UPDATE… https://t.co/PD9FWyaUQN
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey announces the arrest of fugitive Tad Cummins, a former high school teacher accused of kidnapping 15 year old student Elizabeth Thomas, in Yreka, California, U.S. April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
#TNAMBERAlert SIGHTING CONFIRMED: Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas were in Oklahoma City on March 15th. DETAILS:… https://t.co/ZZ5oy2fDuA
This has been upgraded to statewide AMBER ALERT: Suspect Tad Cummins was a teacher at Maury Co. Schools. Anyone w/… https://t.co/6QFON36i19
NEW PICTURE: Here's the last known photograph of Elizabeth Thomas prior to her alleged kidnapping. Spot her? 1-800-… https://t.co/a2h7G50wPw
VIDEO: Here's surveillance of AMBER Alert suspect Tad Cummins, days before disappearing with Elizabeth Thomas. https://t.co/j1fuc5VJWH
New surveillance video of Tad Cummins accused of kidnapping 15 y/o girl appears to show him looking at hair colorin… https://t.co/Iii6HND7oB
TBI: Elizabeth Thomas & Tad Cummins may be wearing the clothes they disappeared in when AMBER Alert was issued:… https://t.co/2uljf6bz8d
NEW PICTURES: Various shots of Ted Cummins in the past few weeks, including the vehicle he's believed to be driving… https://t.co/ldcK8s2Kaf
UPDATE: Here's the latest in our ongoing #TNAMBERAlert. We're doing everything we can to bring Elizabeth home.… https://t.co/Iu084rDY9m
MEDIA: Here's a quick video clip of Tad Cummins & Elizabeth Thomas entering the Walmart in Oklahoma City on 3/15. https://t.co/tIsI94rT6a
Tad Cummins, a former high school teacher accused of luring a 15-year-old student into his car outside of a restaurant and disappearing with the girl, is pictured in this police handout photo. Maury County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Tad Cummins, a former high school teacher accused of luring a 15-year-old student into his car outside of a restaurant and disappearing with the girl, is pictured in this police handout photo. Maury County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
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The girl was reportedly in the courtroom at the time, but did not speak, though a spokesman spoke to reporters on her behalf.

"This decision today to plead guilty pleases us in the fact that at this point the victim will no longer have to face a lengthy trial and can go about her life," spokesman David Boling told The Associated Press.

Prosecutors allege Cummins engaged in sexual activity with the victim in a classroom closet at school and in a car, though they first had intercourse after he took her out of state.

Cummins was married at the time — as well as a father and grandfather — but his wife has since filed for divorce. 

Cummins disappeared in March 2017, allegedly with the intention of taking the girl to Mexico. After nearly six weeks on the run, they were found in a forest cabin in remote Cecilville, Calif. 

The victim was unharmed. Cummins will be sentenced later this year.

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