Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Culture | By Stewart Greene

Tennessee teacher suspected in kidnapping arrested in northern California

Tennessee teacher suspected in kidnapping arrested in northern California

They disappeared a few weeks after a student reported seeing Cummins and Elizabeth kissing in a classroom.

Cummins faces state charges of aggravated kidnapping and a misdemeanor charge, and a federal charge of transporting a minor across state lines for the objective of sexual intercourse.

Tad Cummins is under arrest and Elizabeth Thomas has been safely recovered in Northern California.

U.S. attorney Jack Smith said that a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines with intent to have criminal sexual intercourse has been filed by the U.S. State Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Authorities say they were found at a commune in Cecilville, California, on Thursday.

TBI Director Mark Gwyn said the Nissan Rogue driven by Cummins, age 50, was spotted by a citizen in Siskiyou County, California Wednesday night.

Authorities say Thomas is considered "healthy and unharmed".

After the capture, one federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines for the objective of having criminal sexual intercourse was filed against Cummins, said Jack Smith, acting USA attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

"There aren't words in the English language to describe the level of relief and elation experienced by the Thomas family", Whatley said.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017: Elizabeth Thomas' brother James Thomas said he believed she was taken against her will. "We'll make sure she'll get what therapy she needs and that she's safe, that she knows she's safe".

Court papers filed recently in the girl's disappearance said she was afraid of the teacher and thought she would face repercussions at school if she resisted him. The teacher, however, acknowledged that the girl was "a really good friend and she does leave her other classes to come see him when she needs someone to calm her down", according to a school report dated January 30.

A warrant was issued for Cummins' arrest after TBI suggested he "may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom this vulnerable young girl for some time in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her". Cummins reportedly surrendered without incident and was taken into custody. The school system said the community can now begin healing.

The duo has been sought since March, when an Amber Alert was issued.

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.

Authorities released surveillance video from March 15 that showed the pair at a Walmart in Oklahoma City. Court records show that Jill Cummins sued her then-missing husband on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct.

"When something like this happens, a community gets together and feels like this is one of our children", Butt said.

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