Tad Cummins, the teacher accused of abducting his 15-year-old female student and causing an ongoing AMBER Alert for more than a month, is in the process of being extradited from California to Tennessee, his defense attorney tells PEOPLE.
“He left at about 7:30 Tuesday evening,” assistant federal defender Ben Galloway tells PEOPLE. “I don’t know how long it will take to get him there.”
The U.S. Marshals Service is tasked with bringing 50-year-old Cummins back to Tennessee, where he is facing kidnapping and sex crime charges. Detainees are generally routed through local jails, private correctional facilities and the federal transfer center in Oklahoma City before they reach their final destination, Galloway says.
Cummins and Elizabeth vanished from Maury County, Tennessee, on March 13.
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They were discovered on April 19 in a remote cabin near Cecilville, California, after a tipster saw the pair and contacted authorities. Cummins was taken into federal custody and charged last week in federal court in Sacramento with one count of transporting a minor with the intent to engage in sexual activity across state lines. He has not entered a plea and was detained as a flight risk.
Elizabeth was brought back to Tennessee and has since been reunited with her family.
Elizabeth Ate Wildflowers to Survive, Says Family Attorney
During their 38 days on the lam, Elizabeth at times ate wildflowers to survive, according to Elizabeth’s family attorney, Jason Whatley. Whatley also says the teen appeared to not have bathed the entire time she was gone.
The duo were in Northern California for approximately a week and stayed at Black Bear Ranch, a clothing-optional commune, before they ended up in Cecilville where they stayed in a cabin without electricity, running water, or heating.
There, tipster Griffin Barry said they passed themselves off as a couple named “John” and “Joanna.” They did odd jobs for Barry to earn their keep.
Barry says he saw Cummins kiss Thomas near the Salmon River when they were helping him collect rocks to build a fire pit.
“Two times down there I saw them kissing on a quick break,” Barry tells PEOPLE.
Barry says he later became suspicious after interacting more with the pair. “It was like, ‘That girl won’t look at me,’ ” he told PEOPLE.
Barry says he spoke to a friend about his suspicions and the friend showed him a photo of the two from the internet – at which point Barry realized the pair were the subjects of a nationwide search.
After Barry alerted authorities, they surrounded the cabin and took Cummins into custody. Cummins, prosecutors allege, was also looking into plans to escape to Mexico.
Last week, Galloway issued a statement defending his client, claiming he has “no history of violence and no criminal history whatsoever,” and that he didn’t coerce, force or threaten Elizabeth, Cummins’ former student at the Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tennessee.
Galloway added that Cummins “looks forward to returning to Tennessee as soon as possible to answer the charges against him.”
Whatley said any suggestion that Elizabeth might have gone willingly with Cummins is “amazingly absurd.”
“This is classic grooming and manipulation,” he adds. “And I predict this case will be studied years in the future about how authority figures like Tad Cummins can mess up young children who believe their lies and are manipulated into doing things they would never do.”