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Tenn. kidnapping suspect wanted to take victim to Mexico, court documents say

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A former Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping his teenage student wanted to flee to Mexico with the girl, federal prosecutors said Monday.

In court documents filed Monday, federal prosecutors said Tad Cummins “planned and executed an audacious scheme” to travel through the U.S. with the 15-year-old girl and ultimately, planned to go to Mexico with the victim.

“He then planned to seek passage to countries further south of Mexico,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hitt wrote. “In furtherance of this plan, the defendant procured a small watercraft and conducted a test run to cross into Mexico across the water from San Diego. The defendant also considered the feasibility of a land crossing into Mexico.”

Prosecutors requested that Cummins remain in custody and be returned to authorities in Tennessee. According to Hitt, Cummins is a flight risk and a “danger to the community.”

Cummins, 50, is scheduled to be arraigned Monday afternoon in Sacramento, Calif.

He has been charged with transporting a minor across state lines for criminal sexual intercourse, according to Jack Smith, the acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. The federal charge, he said, carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.

Cummins and the girl had been the subject of a five-week, nationwide search that came to an end Thursday, when they were discovered hiding in a small cabin in Cecilville, a remote, unincorporated mountain community northwest of Redding.

Cummins was taken into custody Thursday and the teen was placed in protective federal care.

As Cummins was being arrested, he told authorities, “I’m glad this is over,” Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Gilley said at a news conference Thursday.

Griffin Barry, the caretaker of the property, alerted authorities to the pair’s whereabouts Wednesday night after he recognized Cummins’ photo from a news story, according to the Record Searchlight. The 29-year-old Tennessee native said Cummins used a fake name and said they had lost everything in a fire in Colorado and needed a place to stay.

Siskiyou County deputies formed a perimeter around the 12-by-12-foot cabin for several hours that night before drawing Cummins out the next morning to arrest him.

According to Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey, Cummins made an arrangement with someone connected to the property where the Siskiyou County cabin was in exchange for gas and food.

Cummins and the girl appeared to have been sleeping on a foam mattress on the ground in the small, one-room cabin, the Siskiyou Daily News reported. They did not have any apparatus for cooking or preparing food.

Although the girl was identified in some earlier reports, the Los Angeles Times is not naming her or her family members because she is an alleged victim of a sex crime.

The pair’s disappearance generated more than 1,500 tips, a sighting in Oklahoma City and Amber alerts in Tennessee and Alabama.

According to federal court documents, Cummins had been planning to escape with the girl since early this year. Authorities had been investigating Cummins in connection with alleged inappropriate sexual behavior, so he fled because “he did not want to await the outcome,” according to federal court documents.

Cummins allegedly admitted to law enforcement officials that he disabled his vehicle’s GPS system and used aliases for him and the girl.

He used stolen license plates and sometimes wore a disguise as he traveled through nine states with the girl, according to court documents. Cummins told authorities he used back roads to avoid detection.

According to Hitt, a federal prosecutor, “the defendant has demonstrated a willingness to evade law enforcement while disregarding the safety, physical, and mental health of a juvenile victim.”

In an interview that aired on the “Today” show Monday, Cummins’ sister, Daphne Quinn, said that he told her he fled with the teen because she wanted to run away and he didn’t want her to be alone. Quinn, who has spoken to him three times since his arrest last week, said her brother told her he wanted the teen to be safe.

“He’s done this horrible thing that he has to pay for, but he’s still my brother and I love him,” Quinn told NBC News.

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