Tad Cummins faces federal and state charges in alleged abduction of former student
Cummins, 50, was arrested last week, and the 15-year-old girl was found safe
The wife of the former Tennessee teacher accused of running off with a 15-year-old student says she knew the answer but asked anyway.
“I said, ‘Well, did you sleep with her?’ ” Jill Cummins said in an interview with “Inside Edition,” describing a jailhouse phone conversation with her husband.
“Yes, I did,” Tad Cummins replied, according to his wife, who has filed for divorce.
“I didn’t want any details,” she told “Inside Edition” in an interview that aired Thursday. “But I knew the truth. I just wanted to hear it from him to me. I told him, I probably wouldn’t be answering the phone anymore.”
Cummins was arrested last week outside a remote cabin in Cecilville, California, at the end of a 39-day manhunt for him and the teen, who was reported missing some 1,900 miles away, in her hometown south of Nashville.
The girl was found safe. Cummins now faces one federal count of transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of criminal sexual intercourse as well as state charges of sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping.
When her husband recently contacted her by phone, Jill Cummins told “Inside Edition” that she went into a rage.
“Do you know what you’ve done to me and to your girls and to your grandchildren?” she said she told him. “He pretty much, just over and over, said, ‘I’m sorry.’ “
She said it was hard to hear his voice. She thought she’d never hear from him again after he disappeared with his former student. She said she told him she felt betrayed and would not allow him to hurt her or their family again.
“I told him, ‘She is a child, and you are a 50-year-old man and that’s not right,’ ” Jill Cummins recalled. “She didn’t have a choice whether or not go with you. He said, ‘She did have a choice.’ “
Before his capture April 20, Tad Cummins and the young woman he called his wife slipped into the remote Northern California community of Cecilville unrecognized. He passed himself off as a down-on-his-luck Colorado man who’d just lost his job and home, according to the man who eventually tipped off police.
The pair had been in the heavily wooded area 60 miles south of the Oregon line about a week, according to Griffin Barry, who says he eventually helped police capture Cummins.
Cummins and the teen arrived at a gas station there a week earlier, apparently on their way to visit a commune, Barry told CNN.
Cummins told Barry he was 44, and that the teen was his 22-year-old wife, according to the cabin’s owner.
As Barry discussed the pair with someone at a bar later, the other person found Cummins’ picture online in an Amber Alert widely distributed by authorities. He called police.
Cummins and the girl disappeared March 13 as a police investigation into their relationship was heating up.
A high school health sciences teacher in the Tennessee town of Culleoka, Cummins had been suspended in February, less than a month after a student reported seeing him and the 15-year-old kissing in a classroom.
At the time of his disappearance, Jill Cummins said, her husband left her a note saying, ” ‘I’m getting away to clear my head of all this crap. I love you. Please don’t call the police… They’ll just think I’m guilty and I’m not. I’m so sorry.”
She said she believed him until she learned the teenager also was missing. The revelation pretty much ended what she described as a “perfect … loving Christian household.”
In the days before the alleged abduction, Tad Cummins refilled a prescription for the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, took out a loan for quick cash and made hotel reservations in another state, according to a criminal complaint.
In a Friday interview on “Inside Edition,” Jill Cummins said she talked to her husband about the teen before he disappeared.
“He was getting close to her, a father-daughter close,” she said. “A friendship close. And I discussed that with him and explained to him she’s your student – we can’t be so close to her. Never did I think there was a romantic thing going on between the two of them. There were no signs of that.”
When asked if she felt the teenager betrayed her, Jill Cummins said, “I do feel slightly betrayed by her because she knew him. She knew what she had. And what she was destroying.”
Ashley, one of the couple’s daughters, said on Friday’s “Inside Edition” that she fully supports her mother but, at the same time, stands by her father.
“He was the definition of what a father should be. He really was and is. I still believe that,” she said. Ashley said she may someday talk to her father about what he did, but for now, “he needs to at least know that everybody is not against him.”
Jill Cummins said he would never take her husband back, but doesn’t hate him.
“I hate what he did,” she said.
CNN’s Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.