Amber alert teen Elizabeth Thomas is in rehab and refusing to return home to her family, claiming she’s ”in love” with her schoolteacher abductor who kidnapped her for 39 days.
the 15-year-old insists she is a “fully grown woman” who should be entitled to date 50-year-old Tad Cummins.
Despite the married grandfather facing a federal child trafficking charge for grooming and kidnapping her, Elizabeth has told friends she had the ‘time of her life’ during their five weeks on the run.
The troubled youngster was the subject to a nationwide amber alert after she disappeared from her hometown of Columbia, Tennessee, with father-of-two Cummins on March 13.
She was recovered safely on April 20 when police tracked the pair to a remote cabin 2500 miles away in northern California and arrested the veteran educator without a struggle.
Elizabeth was flown back to Tennessee but she went into a special treatment center for trauma victims rather than return to her family home.
There is no timetable for her release with friends saying the “messed up” teen will receive expert care ”for as long as it takes” for her to realise she was the victim of a predatory older male.
“Elizabeth says she’s in love with Tad and that the pair of them haven’t done anything wrong,” said a source. ”She thinks she is a fully grown woman who can date who she likes.
“As far as she’s concerned it was all one big, fun road trip. She says she had the time of her life which is obviously pretty tough for the family to hear.”
Elizabeth’s recovery is further complicated by her turbulent family life, with her parents divorcing and her mother facing trial for abusing Elizabeth and several of her nine siblings.
Kimberly Thomas, 48, is prevented from speaking to Elizabeth over allegations that she beat her, locked her in a basement and threw her down stairs; a pattern of mistreatment that her father, Anthony Thomas, says left her vulnerable to grooming.
However, Elizabeth has also told friends she doesn’t want to move back in with her 49-year-old pest controller father, whom she blames for splitting up her and Cummins.
She would instead prefer to live with Paige Griffith, the mother of one of her closest friends and someone she regards as a “second mum”.
“It’s a very complex family situation right now,” our source added. “All they can do is stand by her and give her as much help as she needs to come to terms with what really happened.
“At the end of the day we are dealing with a very messed-up kid here. Cummins really did a number on her. She was not harmed physically but the mental scars will take years to heal.”
Griffith refused to discuss Elizabeth’s whereabouts but said the teen was in a “safe” place.
Anthony Thomas’ lawyer Jason Whatley was unavailable for comment.
“There is no doubt that she has suffered severe emotional trauma and that her process of recovery is only just beginning,” he said in a previous statement.
Silver-haired Cummins is said to have spent months grooming his young student and was suspended from his teaching job when another girl witnessed him kissing Elizabeth in a classroom.
After leaving a note for his wife Jill, 49, claiming he was “travelling to Virginia Beach or the DC area to clear his mind,” he picked up Elizabeth from a local restaurant where she was in such a hurry to climb into his car that she left behind her schoolbag.
The “couple” headed west before hiding out for 10 days at a remote commune in Cecilville, California, where they posed as a married couple and were seen ”making out” by a camp fire.
They were eventually kicked out of the ramshackle community, which regard clothing as “optional” and has no internet or phone links to the outside world, because residents found the age gap “creepy”.
Following his capture, Cummins is awaiting extradition to Lawrence County, Tennessee, where he faces up to 12 years in jail for aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor.
He also faces a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines with intent of having criminal sexual intercourse, which carries a minimum 10-year sentence, and further state charges in California.
Jill, his estranged wife of 31 years, has filed for divorce on grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment”. She told Inside Edition her estranged husband had admitted to sleeping with Elizabeth.
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