Teen Abducted By Teacher Is Acting Like Different Person; Family At A Loss

In March 2017, police issued an Amber Alert for Elizabeth Thomas, 15, after she disappeared from her hometown in Tennessee. Authorities discovered that she was with her teacher Tad Cummins, 50, a father and grandfather who had previously been accused of kissing Elizabeth in his classroom. Elizabeth was a freshman student at the Culleoka Unit High School in Maury County.

Their First Encounter

Their First Encounter

Elizabeth’s sister Sarah Thomas described the pair’s first, and inappropriate, encounter at the beginning of the school year. According to Sarah, Cummins reportedly rubbed both her and Elizabeth’s shoulders and ran his hands down their backs.

A Teacher Earns His Student’s Trust

A Teacher Earns His Student’s Trust

Sarah told People magazine, “Elizabeth looked at me with her eyes, like, ‘This guy is scary, get this guy off.’” Although she seemed wary of Cummins in the beginning, Elizabeth was eventually seduced by her teacher, who was old enough to be her father. According to family members, Cummins “groomed” Elizabeth and earned her trust.

The pair allegedly kissed on school property on Jan. 23, 2017, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. On March 13, 2017, police issued a multi-state Amber Alert and an arrest warrant for Cummins on charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor.

She Was Bullied and Vulnerable

She Was Bullied and Vulnerable

One of the reasons why Elizabeth felt connected to Cummins was because she was interested in the medical field, and he acted as a mentor. Her sister Sarah explained, “It just so happened that she wanted to do the things he was claiming [he did], so she probably idolized [him].”

In addition, Elizabeth was very vulnerable at the point in her life. She had been homeschooled until eighth grade and was bullied the previous year after entering the public school system. Cummins took advantage of Elizabeth’s fragile state of mind and preyed on the young girl, who was easy to manipulate and control.

A Father’s Intuition

A Father’s Intuition

Anthony Thomas, Elizabeth’s father, told People that Cummins “built up a system where she was dependent on him.” Not only did Cummins help Elizabeth with homework, he also went above and beyond what most teachers do with their students. He gave Elizabeth money and bought her a microwave so she could heat up food in his classroom. He also tried to “get her out of trouble,” noted Anthony.

When Elizabeth’s father found out about the kissing incident, he confronted his daughter about it. She denied it ever happened. Anthony insisted that Elizabeth not have any more contact with Cummins.

He Took Psychological Control

He Took Psychological Control

Anthony suspected something inappropriate might have happened between his daughter and her teacher, and other family members believe Cummins was slowing gaining psychological control of the teen without drawing attention to their relationship.

Elizabeth’s brother, James Thomas, 27, told People,: “He pretty much controlled every aspect of what she believed she could do and couldn’t do… that to me is terrifying, [that] he had that much control over her without anyone knowing.” The pair was forming a bond that was under the radar, and no one had any idea that the two of them would become fugitives and spark a massive manhunt.

Going off the Grid

Going off the Grid

After Elizabeth and her teacher disappeared, police believed the pair had gone “off the grid.” Authorities sought help from the public, asking them to keep a lookout for the pair in areas such as campgrounds and parking garages. When Elizabeth was abducted, she was wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings. She was described as being 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 120 pounds with blonde hair and hazel eyes.

Cummins was described as being 6 feet tall and weighing 200 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. The teacher was last seen driving a Silver Nissan Rogue, which Cummins used to evade police.

Online Search for “Teen Marriage”

Online Search for “Teen Marriage”

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Cummins perused the internet to search “teen marriage” prior to abducting his student. Investigators uncovered data that shows on March 5, Cummins searched the topic on the web. In addition, he also investigated what features on his Nissan Rogue may allow authorities to track him down.

An Amber Alert was issued on March 13, and by March 21 the bureau received over 650 leads into their disappearance. But they didn’t have a single credible sighting of the twosome. At that point, investigators believed Cummins had whisked Elizabeth out of the area and far away from Tennessee.

Fear for Elizabeth’s Safety

Fear for Elizabeth’s Safety

The day after Cummins disappeared with Elizabeth, he was fired by the school where he met the teen. Authorities believed he was in the possession of two handguns. Investigators expressed concern about Elizabeth’s safety, believing she was in imminent danger. They implored the public to keep an eye out for the pair because they feared her life was in danger.

TBI spokesman Josh DeVine explained, “She may not realize that she’s a victim, but she is certainly a victim. She needs help, she needs our best efforts and she needs the attention of this country to be on the lookout for her.”

Social Media Posts about Being in Love

Social Media Posts about Being in Love

The pair expressed their love on social media. Around the time that Elizabeth was kidnapped, she referred to herself as a “wife” on Instagram and posted a photo from Beauty and the Beast with the quote, “Every beauty needs her beast to protect her from everything but him.” In a separate post, she put up a quote reading, “I look forward to going to school just to see you.”

Cummins also posted love-related sayings and notes on his Instagram page. Around the time the pair vanished, he wrote, “Good morning all! This is going to be an amazing day! Let’s do this! #strong #unbreakable #love.”

Cummins’ Wife Was Fond of the Teen

Cummins’ Wife Was Fond of the Teen

Cummins also had a Twitter page and described himself as “Jesus freak/child of The King, husband, father, grandfather, high-school teacher, clinician, drummer, audio tech, jeep owner, singer/songwriter, warrior-poet.” When he disappeared with Elizabeth he left behind his wife Jill, who he married in 1985.

Cummins’ Facebook page was filled with photos of his wife and his family. Jill told Inside Edition that she had met Elizabeth on several occasions and she and Tad helped the teen get through a difficult time. She felt quite close to Elizabeth and treated her like a daughter. But she was a little worried about the duo’s growing friendship.

More Than a Father/Daughter Relationship

More Than a Father/Daughter Relationship

Jill Cummins was a little concerned about her husband’s relationship with Elizabeth and felt that he was being a bit too friendly with the young woman. She explained, “He was getting really close to her. A father-daughter close, a friendship close, and I knew that. I discussed that with him. And explained to him, ‘She’s your student, you can’t be so close to her.'”

She added, “Never did I think there was a romantic thing between the two of them. There were no signs of that.” She was blindsided by the abduction and quickly filed for divorce. She believed Elizabeth had been exploited and possibly brainwashed.

A Plea on National Television

A Plea on National Television

After the pair disappeared, Jill Cummins tried her best to get her husband to return home and bring Elizabeth back to her family. She pleaded on national television, “Let me speak directly to my husband. Tad, this is not you. This is not who you are. We can help you get through this.”

She added, “No matter how far you’ve gone or what’s happening right now, God’s grace is sufficient for you and He wants you to come home. Your family wants their Papi back. Please do the right thing, and turn yourself into the police and bring Beth home.”

They Were Found 38 Days Later, But…

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While on the run, Cummins switched licenses plates on his vehicle two times, disabled the GPS system, used aliases, changed his appearance, paid for items in cash and stuck to back roads. The pair eluded law enforcement for 38 days. On April 20, 2017, Elizabeth was rescued in a campground in Cecilville, California, nearly 2,500 miles from her home in Columbia, Tenn.

Investigators received the tip to their whereabouts in the early morning hours. Detective Sgt. Marcus Albright explained, “I felt like a huge weight was just taken off my back and an overwhelming amount of relief — this part of the investigation was finally over, and most of all that both were safe.”

Elizabeth’s Unusual Behavior Following Her Rescue

Elizabeth’s Unusual Behavior Following Her Rescue

Cummins has been accused of brainwashing Elizabeth, and after she was rescued she acted very stoically, according to investigators. It didn’t appear that she wanted to return home, and her behavior was very troubling to her family.

Her father Anthony said, “She didn’t act like a rescued person would act.” He revealed on CNN’s Primetime Justice,: “She didn’t look like herself at all. She looked like she was very worn out — very thin and very jittery. That really wasn’t her. She’s actually somebody that’s more sure of herself and usually all smiles. She was the life of the party.”

Terrible Panic Attacks

Terrible Panic Attacks

After being on the run from authorities for five weeks, Elizabeth had a difficult time adjusting to life with her family. According to her sister-in-law, Danielle Thomas, the teen experienced terrible panic attacks. Danielle explained on Primetime Justice, “There are times where she’s curled up in the middle of the floor crying and shaking and having panic attacks.”

Meanwhile, Cummins was taken into federal custody at the Sacramento County jail in California before being transferred back to Tennessee. Attorney S. Jason Whatley said in a statement on behalf of the girl and her family, “It is time to focus on Elizabeth and her recovery, which could easily take an extended period of time.”

Trying to “Keep Things Positive”

Trying to “Keep Things Positive”

It’s difficult for Elizabeth’s family to see how much the teen has changed. Her father told ABC News,: “What we want to see when we look at her is the child we knew. She may not be exactly … the person she was, because there’s a lot of experiences she’s had.”

He added that the family is just trying to “keep things positive.” “I go in there and tell her how much I missed her, how much I love her and how much her dog missed her,” he said. “I’m not allowed to ask her about things that happened along the way right now.” But there may be one good reason why Elizabeth ran away with her teacher.

Elizabeth’s Mother Was Indicted for Child Abuse

Elizabeth’s Mother Was Indicted for Child Abuse

More than a year before Elizabeth was abducted, her mother Kimberly Thomas was indicted on child abuse charges. According to court documents, she was indicted on four counts of misdemeanor child abuse and neglect and one felony count of abuse of a child under the age of eight. Kimberly Thomas purportedly abused five of her 10 children, including Elizabeth.

According to reports, the abuse began in 2014 and continued for about one year. In that time, Kimberly and her husband Anthony separated. He took sole custody of the kids, and Kimberly was banned from having any contact with her children.

The Story of Elizabeth’s Heartbreaking Abuse

The Story of Elizabeth’s Heartbreaking Abuse

Kimberly Thomas allegedly hit Elizabeth’s head against a washing machine. She also threw her daughter down a set of stairs and locked her inside the basement. The teen’s older sister, Kat Bozeman, believes that the alleged abuse contributed to her sister’s abduction. She told People, “Absolutely, 100 percent that affected her.”

The teen’s mom has been accused of beating several of her children until they bled, hitting one child with a wooden board until she became unconscious and striking another in the head after she injected herself with her sibling’s EpiPen. Despite these allegations, Kimberly Thomas has entered a not guilty plea.

Elizabeth’s Fragile State of Mind

Elizabeth’s Fragile State of Mind

When a person has experienced childhood trauma they are very vulnerable and susceptible to being influenced by those around them. Dr. Janet Rosenzweig, Executive Director of the American Professional Society of the Abuse of Children, told People, “When you have parents who aren’t parenting their child correctly, whether they’re abusive or not, when parents don’t adequately prepare their kids to navigate this crazy period of life called adolescence, they’re incredibly vulnerable.”

A lucky kid will find a mentor in a responsible and trustworthy adult. Elizabeth, however, connected with a child predator. Rosenzweig explained that when this happens, “we end up with tragedy.”

A Broken Family

A Broken Family

Just a week after Elizabeth was rescued, her father Anthony filed for divorce from his wife Kimberly Thomas after 30 years of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct. A judge granted a restraining order that prevents Kimberly from speaking about her daughter’s disappearance. The order will remain in effect until divorce proceedings commence.

Anthony’s divorce lawyer, Cory Ricci, explained, “We are afraid of Ms. Thomas giving interviews or speaking. If it airs, Elizabeth will be terrified. She’s very, very scared of her mother.” Kimberly’s criminal trial for child abuse and neglect is set for review on May 12.

Glad For It To Be Over

Glad For It To Be Over

Tad Cummins had an interesting state of mind about the whole thing when it was over. He was either relieved or simply crazy. He told authorities that he was happy the chase was finally over once he got caught. The thing is, he has the possibility to be in prison for a very long time. So either he felt a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders because he couldn’t take the pressure of the manhunt or he lost his mind.

No matter how you look at it, something is now wrong with both of them because of this experience and they need help.

Possibly Stockholm Syndrome?

Possibly Stockholm Syndrome?

Could we have a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome? A few of the signs seem to be there but you can’t quite deem it that right away. Stockholm Syndrome is when hostages develop a connection or a physiological alliance with the ones that kidnapped them. It is many times out of fear that the hostage makes this connection as a survival technique.

However, according to earlier reports and the fact that people have been saying she was brainwashed, it is difficult to assess whether or not she is showcasing Stockholm Syndrome. Her behavior now that she is safe is the most telling.

Road to Recovery

Road to Recovery

Like we mentioned already, Elizabeth is not in the right mind state. Throw in the kidnapping and the abuse plus the possibility of Stockholm syndrome, this might be a process that could go on for longer than anyone is able to predict.

For starters, recovering from Stockholm Syndrome usually requires psychological counseling that tries to persuade the victim that their actions were a result of human survival techniques. Their mind makes them believe that they are still in the survival mode so counseling strives to reinstate normalcy back into the person’s life. And that is just for Stockholm Syndrome.

Cummins Always a Liar?

Cummins Always a Liar?

There may be some back story that helps explain this behavior from Tad Cummings. Sure, there are people who are composed most of their life and just snap out of nowhere before doing something ridiculous but there are others who show signs that they are capable of acting wild.

Elizabeth’s sister, Sarah, said she would hear Cummins talk about being in the FBI, CIA and the Secret Service. “He was a weirdo,” she said. That right there could be one indication. Someone who lies about something like that and tries to make people believe him says something.

Sister Opened Up

Sister Opened Up

It was certainly a tough time for the community involved and especially the family members. Sarah Thomas said a few things during the time of uncertainty that also could make it easier to understand how things went south.

“We went to his classroom a whole bunch because that’s where the other kids went and my sister, and she is my best friend, so I went with her,” Sarah Thomas said. Going to be with him often certainly built up a trust factor between the two. It also sounds like he knew exactly what he was going with his plan to reel her in.

Attempting to Halt the Bullying

Attempting to Halt the Bullying

Elizabeth’s sister would try and make attempts at getting the bullying to end but it was to no success. Sarah, the sister said that Elizabeth would ask for assistance in helping with stopping the bullying. “She would always say for me to make them stop, and I tried,” said Sarah. “I’d bring them to the office and they didn’t do anything. I can only do so much.”

Who knows how much the bullying ceasing could have helped in this situation because at this point any suggestions would only be speculation. So we can speculate that it could have helped slightly.

The Last Words

The Last Words

Ever wonder what the last words of an abducted person might be? One word or a sentence can mean the difference in everything. The person could have something with an underlying meaning or even given you help as to where to find them once you find out they are missing.

Elizabeth’s last message to her sister was very straightforward. “Hey, I’m going to be back by six,” were the words she told her sister. “If I’m not back by six, call the police.” At that point, what do you do as a sister? Worry until six comes around or take action before?

Just How Deep Was the Bond?

Just How Deep Was the Bond?

Was the teacher-student connection that deep? Apparently, it was and that also helped with this process for Cummins. According to investigative reports, Elizabeth would turn to Cummins when she had to deal with feelings.

“She goes to Cummins’ classroom when she becomes upset or anxious,” said the report. She considers him a friend and he knows how to calm her down. Other students feel the same about him. She has been to church with him and his wife.” There is your answer. The bond was there and it couldn’t be denied on the path to what happened.

Details About the Missing Days

Details About the Missing Days

It was reported that during the 38 days that Elizabeth was missing, she and Cummins ended up at a cabin in Northern California. They first spent some time in Berkeley before going to this survival cabin. The cabin only had four walls and was without electricity and running water. They had to eat wildflowers at times.

Unfortunately, that led to a tremendous weight loss in the young teenage girl. This could be part of the reason Cummins was glad for the hunt to be over because of the poor conditions the two were in not having food to eat all the time.

Cabin Daze…

Cabin Daze…

More information about the days Elizabeth was in the cabin have been slowly emerging ever since her return to her family. A man by the name of Griffin Barry, who operated the cabin, shared a story about an encounter.

“One time I had given him food that night and she was like, ‘Thank you,'” Barry said. “She got excited over some food.” He also said that Cummins passed off the two as a couple and said that Elizabeth was really 24. She also kept her mouth closed a lot and only whisper to Cummins while he did all the talking.

An Emotional Farewell

An Emotional Farewell

When it was time for the two to separate and Cummins to get arrested, things got emotional according to Sherriff Jon Lopey. The two seemed attached to each other which could reinforce our earlier conclusion about Stockholm Syndrome.

“They seemed to comfort each other,” said Lopey. “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.” Something seems to be off about the attachment between these two. We’re sure she must have been worried that her family was anxious about her whereabouts but she was also concerned about leaving his side.

The Family Attorney Speaks

The Family Attorney Speaks

Jason Whatley is the family attorney who is working on this case. He has shed some light on how he feels the situation is affecting Elizabeth and other new information about the whole thing as it becomes available to him. And what he shares doesn’t sound great for Elizabeth’s psyche.

Whatley said that Cummins “treated her like a child at times. I think most people would agree that the combination of treating her like a child and an adult woman in the same relationship, like a light switch and turned it on and off, is damaging.”

Black Bear Ranch

Black Bear Ranch

Tad Cummins was certainly up to something. Jason Whatley revealed that before the pair went to the cabin, Cummins took them to a place called Black Bear Ranch. What that ranch is exactly, is a clothing-optional commune. Disturbingly to say the least, Whatley says Elizabeth was around naked men for a few days before traveling to the cabin.

At the ranch, “residents had no access to national news and had no idea who this couple was, [their] ages or their history in relation to the charges that have now surfaced,” a statement reads. Cummins must have known those logistics and that is why he took her there.

Getting Back in the Groove

Getting Back in the Groove

Understandably, this might be the roughest patch that Elizabeth might possibly experience in her life. She went through more than other people have ever gone through in their lives combined and now that she is back with her family it might take a period of time for her to adjust back to how she was before.

“She’s had moments of being carefree and fun, but [at the same time] she’s very, very fragile and that’s something the family is watching very carefully,” said Whatley. Being kind and loving to her is the only thing the family should be doing at this point when nurturing her back.

Sister’s Remarks

Sister’s Remarks

It appears that her older sister echoes the sentiments of showing her sister love during the recovery process. Unless you have been through this situation, then all you can really do is help with the kindest thing a person can offer emotionally and that’s love. You can’t speed up their recovery because it is a battle they must handle in their own way with nothing but support on their side.

“[She] needs love over anything else,” Elizabeth’s older sister, Kat Bozeman, told People. “Love is what’s going to heal her. We’re going to show her we love her unconditionally.”

The Court Battle

The Court Battle

Elizabeth’s birthday was just a few weeks after she returned back home and the family was overjoyed that she was able to celebrate with her. “I’m happy we get to see her, that she is with us for her birthday,” James Thomas says. “We’re very excited that we were able to get her back in time for her birthday.”

What lies ahead is what is going to be said in court and just how Cummins will be disciplined because being fired is not enough for this catastrophe. We know that Whatley feels that Cummins’ take is a load of bologna.

Cummins Argument

Cummins Argument

Tad Cummins is coming from a perspective that is a bit one sided. Since he can’t know exactly how Elizabeth feels or was feeling during the time, he employed a defense only speaking to what he thinks. You tell us what you think.

“Mr. Cummins never employed violence, force, or threats,” said court documents filed for Cummins and obtained by People. “At no time was the alleged victim held at gunpoint, hit or forcibly held. In fact, it appears that she desired to leave a broken home and a school where she was a bullied outsider.”

Whatley Opposes Cummins

Whatley Opposes Cummins

Now that you know the angle Cummins is taking, are you like Whatley and completely dismiss that stance or do you think it holds weight? He thinks that the idea of Elizabeth going willingly is “amazingly absurd”. On one hand, it could be, but there might be a few who agree with Cummins

“This is classic grooming and manipulation,” Whatley said. “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.”

Cummins’ Charges

Cummins’ Charges

It is obvious that Cummins had to be charged with something but what exactly were those charges? “During the course of the investigation, detectives learned from Cummins’ wife that Cummins was prescribed Cialis,” said the police. “He had obtained a refill of approximately seven pills days prior to leaving town.” It seems he had sexual intentions.

The charges that Cummins were hit with were transporting a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity. Reports are that the pair had intercourse “most nights” so he could also get way harsher charges.

Did He Sleep With Her?

Did He Sleep With Her?

The question of whether he slept with this minor is one that loomed in many heads when the kidnapping first was reported. And it wasn’t until after Elizabeth was returned that the truth was revealed by Cummins according to his now estranged wife.

“I asked, ‘Well, did you sleep with her?” Jill Cummins told Inside Edition in April, regarding a conversation she had with her husband after he was arrested. “And he said, ‘Yes, I did,’ and I didn’t want any details.” Good for her that she is now away from this toxic person and Cummins is going to get what’s coming to him.

Elizabeth Breaks Her Silence

Elizabeth Breaks Her Silence

Since returning home Elizabeth, who is now 16, went through months of therapy, is being homeschooled, and lives with her older brother. In September 2017, Elizabeth has finally spoken publicly in regards to her abduction months earlier.

A pajama-clad Elizabeth was spotted babysitting two kids at a fast food restaurant, where she told Columbia Daily Herald, “I don’t regret it, nor do I say it was the right thing to do. It was an experience I’ll have to live with the rest of my life… I can’t really complain right now. I babysit kids, and I work in Columbia. I am studying at home.” Elizabeth has also had it with people who are trying to understand her saying, “There’s been so much speculation about me… People are talking to me like they know me. They didn’t talk to me before. They didn’t try to know me before. They have only liked me since I came back.”

This Has Happened Before…

This Has Happened Before…

Elizabeth Thomas was not the first teenager to experience an abduction and then undergo a dramatic personality change. Perhaps the most famous case of them all is that of Patty Hearst (born Patricia Campbell Hearst), the granddaughter of American publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

She was kidnapped at the tender age of 19 from the University of California’s Berkeley campus by a left-wing terrorist group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army. The changes that manifested in Patty Hearst are among the most disturbing ever recorded in a kidnap victim anywhere in the world.

This is Patty’s story.

Wealth And Power Ran In The Family

Wealth And Power Ran In The Family

There’s no doubt that Patty Hearst was born to have it all. Her grandfather, William Randolph Hearst, was one of the absolute business powers of his day. He created and ran the largest magazine, newspaper, newsreel and movie business the world had ever known. While William might appear at first glance to be a self-made man, the truth was that the family had been wealthy for many generations previously and they had incredible influence in America from a political perspective. Most importantly of all, they were a leading advocate of anti-communist activities within the United States of America.

Patty Hearst Had An Ordinary Childhood

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In stark contrast to today, when a billionaire’s child would be constantly surrounded by security and be whisked from place to place with a team of operatives at their beck and call, Patty Hearst had a fairly normal upbringing. She had four sisters and went to the Crystal Springs School for Girls and then the Santa Catalina School in Monterey. All the children were treated the same as their classmates. As each child was one of many heirs to the family fortune, it was felt that there was no particular threat to any of them.

Patty Hearst Is Kidnapped At Gunpoint

Patty Hearst Is Kidnapped At Gunpoint

The plan was simple. Patty Hearst had gone to Menlo College in Atherton and then she had transferred to the University of California where she lived with the man she loved, Steven Weed. This left her vulnerable and the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) had a plan to take advantage of that. On February 4, 1974, members of this terrorist group attacked Hearst on campus. Patty was knocked to the ground and then beaten into unconsciousness. The details aren’t entirely clear as to what exactly happened but reports say that a machine gun was also fired during the attack.

The SLA would claim responsibility for these actions soon after…

Introducing The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA)

Introducing The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA)

The SLA had begun life innocently enough. In the days of constant civil rights action across America, the group had been founded to provide tuition and support for black inmates of prisons across the nation. Unfortunately, what started with good intentions quickly went awry. The group began to believe that convicts were no threat to society and instead, were heroic victims of the political system. They rapidly radicalized and saw themselves as the reaction to a racist American society. The group’s fate was sealed when Donald DeFreeze escaped from jail and was taken in by members of the SLA included Russell Little and Patricia Soltysik.

Donald DeFreeze Was Dangerous And Delusional

Donald DeFreeze Was Dangerous And Delusional

DeFreeze was initially suspected of being an undercover agent for the government by members of the left but the SLA was different. They felt that his time in prison and his ethnicity made him a hero. He was given absolute authority over the SLA in return. He is said to have exercised this both in the direction of the groups’ future actions but also by exerting “sexual dominion” over the group. He intended their first major action to be an assassination of a black educator, Marcus Foster, that the group perceived as a fascist. However, this was canceled as it was thought it might bring about repercussions for black prisoners.

The Motives For Patty Hearst’s Kidnapping

The Motives For Patty Hearst’s Kidnapping

While the SLA’s plan to abduct Hearst was simple, its objectives were less clear. She was selected as a target simply because she was in the area that the SLA operated in. Initially, they demanded the release of two SLA members who were being held as prisoners over the murder of a black superintendent. When the authorities refused to comply with this request they turned to a demand for ransom instead. Hearst’s parents were instructed to buy and distribute $70 of food to every needy person in California. This would have cost them an estimated $400 million. However, they began to comply and borrowed nearly $2 million to begin a program of food distribution.

Things Go Very Wrong For The Hearst’s

Things Go Very Wrong For The Hearst’s

The Hearst’s may have had good intentions in securing their daughter’s release but they didn’t have any experience managing a large scale food relief program. Their initial project in the Bay Area descended into chaos and the SLA seized on an opportunity to refuse to release Patty to her parents. Patty says of this time, “DeFreeze told me that the war council had decided or was thinking about killing me or me staying with them and that I better start thinking about that as a possibility.” Angela Atwood, another member of the SLA, says it was at this point in Patty’s captivity that William Wolfe and DeFreeze began to rape Patty.

Patty’s Life Changes Forever

Patty’s Life Changes Forever

It is, perhaps, unsurprising that with this incredible change in her circumstances and in fear for her life, that Patty Hearst took the radical step of joining the SLA. She would announce to the world on April 3, 1974, on a tape that she had surrendered the name “Patty” and would be known as “Tania” from there on in. She also confirmed that she had become a member of the group that had abducted her and held her hostage for the last two months. Patty Hearst was making the transition from victim to terrorist and her parents and the government were powerless to do anything about it.

Patty Hearst Robs A Bank

Patty Hearst Robs A Bank

The first positive proof that Patty Hearst was no longer just a kidnap victim came on April 15, 1974, at the Hibernia Bank on Noriega Street in San Francisco. The bank was robbed at gunpoint. Patty Hearst, now referring to herself as “Tania”, was present and verbally confirmed her new identity to people in the bank. She herself was carrying an M1 Carbine. During the course of the robbery, two male customers were shot and seriously wounded. An eyewitness would testify at Hearst’s trial that she had been several paces behind the other terrorists when she ran for the getaway car. Which suggests that if she had wanted to, she could have got away.

Public And Private Sympathy Disappears

Public And Private Sympathy Disappears

If Patty Hearst was expecting the American nation to understand her sudden transformation into a gun-toting bank robber, she was mistaken. William B Saxbe, the United States Attorney General, denounced her as a “common criminal.” He was absolutely adamant that she was a willing participant. James L Browning Jr., the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, also made it clear that he felt Hearst was not coerced into taking part and released a statement to that effect. However, the FBI agent who investigated the bank robbery said that there was evidence that the SLA had been pointing their guns at her during the robbery. This would not prevent her eventual indictment and trial for the robbery.

Hearst Uses A Machine Gun To Rescue An SLA Comrade

Hearst Uses A Machine Gun To Rescue An SLA Comrade

It is not hard to see how public support for Hearst collapsed when the tale of her May 1974 shootout with a surplus store manager is told. The manager had confronted William Harris and Emily Harris, both members of the group, while Hearst waited outside in a van. During the confrontation, William Harris had a wrist manacled by the manager and he dropped a pistol on the floor. Hearst, who had been taught to shoot by her father, then fired the entire contents of a carbine into the storefront which left the manager cowering in fear for his life. When he attempted to return fire, Hearst came close to killing him and left him covered in fragments of store fittings.

Patty Hearst The Fugitive

Patty Hearst The Fugitive

As you might expect, a shootout in the street brings police attention and the Harris’ and Hearst hijacked two cars during their escape. Incredibly, one male victim of the hijackings was highly reluctant to report a crime at all and he would try to ameliorate his testimony at her trial by insisting she had repeatedly checked on his well-being during the process. At one point as they fled, the Harris’ say that they were forced to talk Hearst out of attacking “the pigs” with her automatic weapon. In the end, Jack Scott—a radical from the Berkeley Campus, but not a member of the SLA—would drive them to freedom.

The Arrest Of Patty Hearst

The Arrest Of Patty Hearst

Following their escape, the Harris’ and Hearst did not slow down their criminal activity. Hearst rigged two (thankfully failed) explosive devices intended to kill policemen. Emily Harris would shoot and kill a woman during an armed robbery of the Crocker National Bank for which Patty Hearst was the getaway driver. Emily Harris would shoot and kill a woman during an armed robbery of the Crocker National Bank for which Patty Hearst was the getaway driver. Hearst was finally arrested without resistance on September 18, 1975, in an apartment in San Francisco along with Wendy Yoshimura who was also a member of the SLA.

Had Patty Hearst Been Brainwashed?

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Dr. Margaret Singer would claim that Hearst’s actions had been due to her becoming a “low-IQ, low-affect zombie” during her captivity. It is certainly true that she was only 87 lbs when she was arrested and that her IQ had dropped from 130 (as previously measured) to just 112. That’s an incredible fall of 18 points on a logarithmic scale. Hearst was much less intelligent than when she was abducted. The court’s doctor, Louis Jolyon West, also confirmed that she was a classic case of being brainwashed. He would state that if she had behaved differently, all sympathy would be with her.

The Trial Of Patty Hearst

The Trial Of Patty Hearst

Though there were many crimes for which Patty Hearst could have stood trial, it was for the Hibernia Bank Robbery that she was charged and tried. Despite clear evidence of brainwashing, Stockholm Syndrome, coercion and more, the prosecution’s case was solid. It wasn’t helped by the fact that Hearst made a terrible impression of herself in court. She was lethargic and possibly under medication during testimony. In fact, the trial went so badly for her that the court ruled it would have been impossible for her to have been raped in captivity because the SLA had “feminist objectives.”

Patty Hearst Gets The Maximum Sentence

Patty Hearst Gets The Maximum Sentence

Patty Hearst may have finally been free of her kidnappers but it was clear that she was not to go free following her trial. Judge Carter who had presided over the trial was so thoroughly convinced of her guilt and active participation in the bank robbery that he gave her 35 years jail time, the maximum sentence possible. This would be reduced by William Horsley Orrick Jr. who took the final sentence hearing when Judge Carter passed away prior to the date. Hearst was given seven years to show, “rebellious young people who, for whatever reason become revolutionaries, and voluntarily commit criminal acts will be punished.”

Prison Life For Patty Hearst

Patty Hearst

Hearst did not do well in prison. She would suffer from a collapsed lung and then a string of other medical conditions during her time inside. She was meant to testify against the Harris’ but ill health prevented her from doing so. She was arraigned for other crimes but with more sympathetic judges her jail time was not increased and the California Attorney General Evelle J. Younger spoke out on her behalf. He noted that in this instance that if there was a double standard for rich people it was holding Patty Hearst to a higher level of responsibility than anyone rightly should have been.

The Commutation, Release, And Pardon Of Patty Hearst

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Patty Hearst was treated unfairly. John Wayne would note that it was incredible that the nation would believe Jim Jones could brainwash 900 people into committing suicide but would not believe that Patty had been brainwashed into becoming a maniac. It took President Jimmy Carter to commute her sentence to 22 months that brought her freedom. President Reagan had considered providing her a pardon but it would be President Bill Clinton who actually delivered her pardon on his final day in the Oval Office. On January 20, 2001, Patty Hearst finally had received something approaching justice. Her status as the victim rather than the criminal had been restored.

Patty Hearst Today

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Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Patty Hearst’s life would change completely after her release from prison. She married a policeman, Bernard Lee Shaw, just two months after she walked out of jail. He had been working as part of the private security detail her parents had assigned her following her return to society. They would stay married until he died in 2013. The couple had two children Gillian and Lydia. Patty Hearst became involved mainly with charitable work and has been a big part of the fundraising scene all her life. Notably, she has had particular success for children’s causes combatting AIDs in children.

Every Secret Thing

Every Secret Thing

Patty Hearst published a memoir of her time with the SLA called Every Secret Thing in 1981. It was controversial enough that the authorities of the day weighed up taking her back to court and prosecuting for her other offenses during her time as a terrorist. What really happened to Patty Hearst will remain something of a mystery. Her abduction and rape at the hands of the SLA are truly shocking but so was her willing and fanatical participation in the group’s reign of terror following. All we can really do is hope that this kind of transformation never takes place again.