22 April, 2017
Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins has been arrested and 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas has been found safe in northern California, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tweeted Thursday.
Michael "Monk" O'Hare, who said he was out of town that evening, owns property in the small, forested California hamlet of Cecilville, including the 12 by 12-foot wood cabin where he said the pair was found.
Surveillance footage of Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas. Cummins, a 50-year-old married father and grandfather, was wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. Authorities received a tip late Wednesday night that the pair may have taken up residence in the woods in Siskiyou County, perhaps for more than a week, bureau spokesman Josh DeVine said. The U.S. State Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee also filed a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines with intent of having criminal sexual intercourse against Cummins, said U.S. attorney Jack Smith.
Siskiyou County deputies searched the area and found the vehicle.
Maury County Schools, where Cummins taught until he was sacked the day after he disappeared with Thomas, released a statement on the conclusion of the case.
Cummins' wife later returned home to discover a note from her husband, in which he said he was heading to Virginia Beach or Washington to "clear his head". He said the girl was at times "laughing, crying and acting stoic" after police found her at the remote cabin. The agency said it would provide more details in a press conference later. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it worked tirelessly for the past five weeks, looking into more than 1,500 leads from all 50 states.
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The two disappeared a few weeks after a student reported seeing Cummins and Thomas kissing in a classroom.
Whatley added that he had been informed that the commune where the two was found was in a very remote area with no cell phone service. But then the trail has gone cold.
"As we have said from the start, it only takes one tip", Gwyn said. The charge carries a minimum of 10 years. "This is yet another example of the value of the public helping us to rescue a kidnapping victim".
"I saw him a week ago and they said they were from Colorado and said they lost everything in a house fire", Barry said.
The statement continued, "Thanks go to all who have kept the message of finding Elizabeth Thomas and working on her safe return as top-of-mind throughout the nation".
She said she's proud of her community, and is confident local officials will find a way to learn from this entire ordeal. "I'm not aware that they had ever been there".