NASHVILLE (WATE/ABC10/WKRN) – Elizabeth Thomas is back in Tennessee.
After more than a month-long Amber Alert search, the 15-year-old was rescued found nearly 2,500 miles away from her Tennessee home in the remote area of upstate California? Elizabeth’s sister said she is in Nashville, but the family has not been able to see her yet.
Anthony Thomas, the father of 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas who was at the center of a more than month-long nationwide Amber Alert, told Good Morning America on Friday that his daughter will need therapy and that her family plans to get her any help she needs.
“We’re very happy that we’re going to see her again,” he told Good Morning America. Thomas added he hadn’t had the opportunity to speak with his daughter yet but plans to talk with her sometime Friday.
Tad Cummins, 50, the former Maury County teacher accused of kidnapping Elizabeth is now in federal custody and is expected to be arraigned in Sacramento on Monday. Authorities say Cummins and Thomas documented their journey collecting rocks and writing notes of the places they had been.
In a statement released by the Cummin’s family, they said they “appreciate the local and national media for keeping this story in the spotlight. They are thankful that Elizabeth Thomas will soon be returned to her family where she can begin the healing process.”
Wife Jill, who has filed for divorce from her husband, and daughters, Erica and Ashlee, also indicated in the statement they are “glad this chapter of the ordeal is over” and thanked all the law enforcement involved in the case.
“Jill, Erica and Ashlee offer neither comment nor opinion about what should or should not happen to Tad Cummins and leave that up to the capable individuals involved in the judicial system.”
Nashville native helps lead police to Tad Cummins, Elizabeth Thomas
The man who tipped off authorities about Cummins told ABC news there were “clues” that made him suspicious of the pair.
Griffin Barry came across Elizabeth and Cummins at a gas station in California this week. Barry is originally from Brentwood, Tennessee, but he is now the caretaker of a forested California property, which includes a gas station, Frisbee golf course, and at least two small cabins.
Barry said Cummins made up a story about being from Colorado, according to our ABC-affiliate KDRV-TV. The former Maury County teacher reportedly told Barry their home caught fire, and he and Thomas were in need of money.
Cummins said their names were John and Joanna and that the teen was 24, Barry told ABC News Friday. Barry said Cummins and Thomas were looking for the Black Bear Ranch commune but were flat broke and out of gas.
“I put some gas in his car and gave him 40 dollars and said if it doesn’t work, come back, I’ll feed you, know what I mean?” said Barry.
He said the two stayed at the cabin for two nights with no running water or electricity. During that time, Barry said he didn’t talk to the two of them much, but noticed Cummins tried to keep Elizabeth away from everyone else.
“The girl wasn’t really looking at me or anything and he was always dominating the conversation. That kind of clues people in,” Barry told Good Morning America. “I had a photo of him that was the Amber Alert and I was like, that’s definitely the guy, and then we saw the car as well and it matched up,” he added.
After realizing who they were, Barry said he immediately called 911.
Cummins and Elizabeth reportedly made it to Black Bear Ranch, but members of the commune knew something was amiss.
“I feel a little funny because there were all kinds of indications that there was something a little funny going on never occurred to me that she was 15 years old. They said she was 22, I thought, ‘Yeah…” said Peter LaughingWolf.
LaughingWolf said when the commune told Cummins it wouldn’t be a good fit for the commune, he reportedly stormed off with his young victim.
“What really should have been a clue that something was wrong was that he got so angry when that was shared with them,” added LaughingWolf.
Cummins and Thomas went back to the property Barry tends and he said they could stay in his cabin if they agreed to work on the property.
They stayed at the cabin for around 36 hours before Barry became suspicious.
“A woman showed me a picture and I was like, ‘That is definitely the guy,’ so then called the 911 last night,” he explained.
Deputies ultimately located Cummins’ Nissan Rogue, which had the license 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 after he walked out of the cabin on Eddy Gulch Road. Thomas was subsequently rescued.
Cummins could face eight to 12 years on the aggravated kidnapping charge and acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith said the federal charge carries a required minimum sentence of 10 years behind bars, but the former Maury County teacher’s sentence could be “possibly quite longer.”
Cummins also faces one count of sexual contact with a minor from an incident that allegedly happened earlier this year. A student reportedly witnessed him kiss Thomas while at school in late January.