Columbia, TN (WMC) - The Tennessee teenager taken by her high school teacher spoke to a reporter for the first time since the ordeal.
The teen's first public comments since came unexpectedly Saturday night when James Bennett, editor of The Daily Herald, was eating at a fast-food restaurant. He said Thomas walked in with two children she was babysitting and agreed to interview and have her photo taken.
"People are talking to me like they know me," Thomas said about the publicity, "They didn't talk to me before. They didn't try to know me before. They have only liked me since I came back."
Thomas said she returned to Columbia in July after spending 78 days in therapy. She flew back to Tennessee with TBI agents in late April after she was discovered with 50-year-old Cummins in a remote cabin in northern California, more than 2,000 miles away from Maury County, Tennessee.
Those who interacted with the pair in California said Cummins did the talking and observed Thomas being shy and timid.
Cummins faces federal charges of obstruction of justice and transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in criminal sexual conduct. Cummins and Thomas were on the run for nearly six weeks in a wild escape that involved aliases, altered appearances, and back-road travel.
"I don't regret it, nor do I say it was the right thing to do," Cummins said, when asked about her leaving town, "It was an experience I'll have to live with the rest of my life. It's good and bad. It's there. No matter what we do, we'll have to deal with it."
Thomas told Bennett she is being home schooled, babysitting, working, and living with her brother, seemingly estranged from her parents. The high school sophomore said she hopes she can be emancipated then attend college and one day become a medical examiner.
Bennett told WMC Action News 5 that Thomas appeared calm, very together, not frazzled or upset. He said she had a good sense of humor.
Tad Cummins is set to go on trial in January.