A sheriff who helped rescue 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas from her former teacher and pedophile suspect 50-year-old Tad Cummins is coming to her defense amid persistent accusations that she willingly ran away with Tad and should not be considered kidnapped.
According to People Magazine, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey was part of the crew that arrested Tad after finding the two in a cabin in the remote northern California community of Cecilville last week.
He said he and other investigators found obvious signs of “grooming” behavior present in Tad and Elizabeth’s interactions upon their first contact with them.
While questioning them outside the cabin, Elizabeth’s behavior was erratic.
Lopey explains, “There were a couple of times she giggled, she giggled and cried, and at times they were serious. I’m sure the emotions were escalating and deflating with each moment.”
“They seemed to comfort each other,” he continued. “She got emotional with crying and he attempted to comfort her, and then when we had to take her away, [it] seemed to be somewhat emotionally difficult for her. We recognized that she had been traumatized.”
Directly addressing those who point to the closeness of Elizabeth’s age to adulthood, Lopey said, “I don’t think a 15-year-old is in a position to consent with a 50-year-old. I think she’s a victim, and no matter what her thought process was, she’s a victim and he’s a sexual predator.”
Many followers of the nationwide manhunt have questioned why Elizabeth never ran away from Tad or called for help, especially when surveillance footage surfaced of the two casually walking into an Oklahoma City Walmart together two days after they disappeared from Tennessee.
“Obviously she had opportunities to leave or escape,” Lopey admitted “But he’s a domineering figure, and they appeared to be operating together in an effort to remain undetected.”
According to WKRN, Elizabeth’s dad Anthony filed a court petition claiming numerous witness accounts of Tad’s ongoing manipulation of Elizabeth back when she was still his student.
His witness accounts include threatening remarks and stalking by Tad, an effort to guilt Elizabeth into keeping their relationship a secret, gift-giving and physical contact, and a process of inflating physical abuse Elizabeth reportedly experience at home in the past in an effort to insert himself as the “father figure” she needed to help deal with it.
Tad faces multiple state and federal charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual conduct with a minor.
Tad and Elizabeth were found in Cecilville on April 21 after being kicked out of a nearby hippie commune. Black Bear Ranch claims on their website that the pair stayed at their commune for a few days, but that none of the residents in the off-the-grid community had any awareness of the 5-week-long AMBER Alert.
Tad and Elizabeth were asked to leave in accordance to the commune rules, which states that visitors must be invited in order to stay longer.
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