CECILVILLE, Calif (WATE/WKRN) – After more than a month-long Amber Alert search, a former Middle Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old student was arrested Thursday in Northern California.
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.
TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said at a news conference Thursday they received a tip that Cummins and Thomas had taken up residence in a cabin in Cecilville sometime over the last week and a half. TBI contacted the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office and learned they had received the same tip from the same person.
Deputies were then able to find the Nissan Rogue in which they had been traveling in a very remote area. The license plate had been removed, but they were able to confirm it was Cummins’ through the VIN number.
Authorities found the cabin they were believed to be staying in, but decided not to take action at night and instead wait until Cummins left in the morning. Shortly after 9:30 a.m. Pacific time, Cummins walked out and was immediately taken into custody. Thomas was right behind him and she detained for her protection. A witness who had befriended the two assisted deputies.
The two loaded handguns they were known to have were found in the cabin, along with various personal items belonging to both of them. Deputies say Thomas appeared to be in good health and Cummins was cooperative at the scene.
“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.
In addition to the state charges he was already facing, Cummins now faces a charge of transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of having criminal sexual intercourse, which carries at least a 10 year prison sentence. Officials are discussing filing additional charges as well. Officials say it could take several weeks to extradite him to Tennessee. An arraignment is scheduled for Friday morning at 10 a.m.
TBI, FBI, and Maury County Sheriff’s Office investigators are en route to California in a TBI aircraft to meet with authorities and make final arrangements to bring Thomas home. She will be brought back to Tennessee on the aircraft.
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 was already 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.”
As of 1 p.m. Thursday, Cummins remained in the custody of the Siskiyou County jail where he’s being held without bond, awaiting extradition to Tennessee.
Kat Bozeman, Thomas’ sister, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation told them Thomas was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. The TBI also reportedly said Thomas appears to be healthy and safe. Bozeman said the family is absolutely elated Thomas was found. She said federal agents told them it would be about a day before they could see the 15-year-old again.
- VIDEO: TBI releases new surveillance video of Tennessee Amber Alert victim, suspect
- Court papers: Elizabeth Thomas ‘scared’ of Tad Cummins