The search for 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas and her presumed kidnapper, 50-year-old Ted Cummins, is still on. Authorities believe that Cummins and Thomas were romantically involved and are viewing him as a kidnapping suspect and many—especially in the court of public opinion—have deemed him guilty of the affair. However, as WHNT 19 reports, a Tenneesee law could actually protect Cummins.
Maury County District Attorney Brent Cooper says that prosecuting Cummins of kidnapping could rest on whether or not Thomas went willingly with her former teacher. "If she comes back and she is absolutely adamant that this was all her own doing that she did this voluntarily and he didn't touch her, it's going to be difficult to prove that," he said.
A big factor may be Thomas' age. She is 15 now and by the time the case goes to trial, she may physically appear to be an adult. "She may not be an adult by that time, but she's going to look like an adult. And we're going to have convince twelve people that it was coercion the way that he went about convincing her to leave," said Cooper.
The kidnapping statute, which Cooper is actively trying to change, treats teens as mature enough to make the decision to run away from home. "Our kidnapping statute says in essence through it's silence on that issue. It's saying that you can be between 13 and 18 and you can legally make the mature decision to leave your family and run off with a person never to be seen again," he said.
If this law does come into play, Cummins could get off with a misdemeanor.
[Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation]