An Amber Alert that was issued on March 13 can now, at last, be dropped. #Tad Cummins, the 50-year-old former Tennessee teacher who kidnapped 15-year-old #Elizabeth Thomas has been found and arrested. While there are not many details available as yet, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has revealed that Cummins was arrested in northern California today. The TBI also said that Thomas has been found and is now safe, having been missing for more than a month.
Cummins’ vehicle found in Siskiyou County on Wednesday
Kelly Giordano, spokeswoman for the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, said on Thursday that authorities found Cummins’ vehicle in their jurisdiction on Wednesday night.
While Giordano did not say exactly where the Nissan Rogue SUV was found, she did say her agency is “currently working an active incident regarding the #kidnapping." As reported by the Tennessean, Siskiyou County is close to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and is a remote area, approximately 120 miles from the California-Oregon state line.
Cummins taught at Elizabeth’s school, but was suspended from Culleoka Unit School back in February, related to an incident a month before where a student had seen Cummins and Elizabeth kissing.
He was later fired from his job. Shortly after the pair went missing on March 13, a warrant was issued for Cummins’ arrest, as TBI believed he may have abused his role as a teacher in order to groom the young girl. They further believed this was an attempt to lure her and to then sexually exploit the 15-year-old.
Arrest comes three weeks after Walmart sighting
As reported by NBS News, Cummins’ arrest comes three weeks after the former Tennessee teacher and Elizabeth were spotted on surveillance footage at a Walmart in Oklahoma City on March 30. After Tennessee authorities showed that they were deeply concerned for Thomas’ safety and about Cummins’ intentions for her, a nationwide manhunt for the teacher and the kidnapped teenager was launched..
The Tennessean quoted Rep. Sheila Butt, who represents Columbia, as saying Thursday was a really good day for her community. She said when something like this kidnapping happens, the community pulls together and it feels like this was one of their own children. Butt added that it feels like their prayers were answered and the “lost sheep” has come home.
Elizabeth Thomas is safe and sound
Butt has reportedly known Cummins for several years and she says she is honestly not surprised that Elizabeth is safe. However, she said she will let the courts deal with the ramification of the kidnapping.
MEDIA: We are planning for an afternoon news conference. Details will be announced as soon as possible. pic.twitter.com/Tw7IKNWZ38— TBI (@TBInvestigation) April 20, 2017
The TBI did state that further details will be reported as soon as they are available. However, the Columbia Daily Herald quotes the Thomas family lawyer, Jason Whatley, as saying Cummins and Elizabeth were found in a remote snowy area near Cecilville, close to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. According to Whatley, sheriff’s deputies hiked through snow to arrest Cummins.
Whatley added that Elizabeth’s family is “elated beyond words” that she has been found, saying all indications are that she is safe and unharmed. He did say, however, that the family will have a "long road ahead of them."
Cummins is now facing charges, which include aggravated kidnapping.