Tennessee girl safe, teacher arrested in northern California

(Courtesy: TBI via WKRN)

(WKRN) — The former Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old student was arrested Thursday in northern California, authorities said Thursday.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced Tad Cummins, 50, was taken into custody and Elizabeth Thomas was safely rescued in Cecilville, California. Cecilville is located in Siskiyou County, which borders the state of Oregon.

The TBI says they received a tip Wednesday night form a California resident who said he believed he saw Thomas and Cummins and had information they had taken up residence in cabin in Cecilville over the last week and a half.

(Tad Cummins mug shot via WKRN)

TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said they notified authorities in Siskiyou County, who had “challenges to overcome” in locating the pair. The area was a “very remote, isolated area with no or limited cell phone service.”

Deputies ultimately located Cummins’ Nissan Rogue, which had the licence plate removed but was verified through its VIN number, and kept the SUV under surveillance for hours.

When day broke, Cummins was spotted and taken into custody without further incident. Thomas was subsequently rescued.

Authorities say the girl is apparently healthy and unharmed.

At one point, the two of them stayed at a commune called Black Bear Commune.

Authorities also say there is evidence that the pair traveled through Berkeley.

The Nissan Rogue the two were traveling in was also located Thursday with the license plate removed. It was verified to belong to Cummins through its VIN number, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.

Cummins surrendered without incident, according to the TBI. Thomas was subsequently recovered by officers, and efforts to reunite her with her family are ongoing.

The two vanished from Columbia, Tennessee, on March 13. An AMBER Alert was issued across the state of Tennessee the following day, and Cummins was added to the TBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list on March 17.

The former teacher is charged with aggravated kidnapping in the AMBER Alert case and also faces one count of sexual contact with a minor after he allegedly kissed Thomas at school earlier this year in late January.

“Our Intelligence Analysts and Agents have worked tirelessly since issuing this AMBER Alert to process more than 1,500 leads from all 50 states,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “What happened in California this morning, however, proves it only takes one person to lead to a successful end. We are extremely thankful the hard work of all partners in this search has paid off. We’re also grateful for the public’s support and vigilance throughout this search effort.”

An acting U.S. attorney in Tennessee says the teacher who is accused of kidnapping his 15-year-old student has been charged with taking a minor across state lines to have sex.



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