Tennessee girl safe, teacher arrested near California cabin

Elizabeth Thomas

The girl's father said that he is overjoyed that his daughter has been found safe, and he can't wait to tell her that he loves her.

Cummins remained in the custody of the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department without bond, awaiting extradition to Tennessee to face charges of sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping.

Cummins and Thomas were spotted on store surveillance video in the only sighting of the two during their almost six-week disappearance.

TBI confirmed that Cummins was arrested and Elizabeth was safe.

"It is believed based on the investigation to date, as set forth herein, that Cummins, age 50, and victim, age 15, are involved in a sexual relationship and travelled in interstate commerce to continue their relationship and to engage in unlawful sexual activity", the criminal complaint against Cummins says. At the same time, he noted, investigators from TBI, the FBI and the Maury County Sheriff's Office are on their way to Northern California to continue their investigation.

California is also charging Cummins with kidnapping and possession of stolen property.

Investigators think he manipulated her into leaving with him, but he wasn't authorised to take a minor, and she wasn't old enough to consent.

"Ultimately it took a tip to see this resolution and to the public, I thank you", said Chief Deputy Ray Jeter with the Murray County Sheriff's Office.

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Authorities issued an Amber Alert for Elizabeth of Columbia, Tenn., after her parents reported her missing March 13.

Authorities had earlier said the arrest happened at a commune but later clarified that it occurred in a very remote area and that they were still collecting evidence.

Elizabeth Thomas has been placed in Federal Bureau of Investigation custody and transferred to Redding California. Cummins told arresting officers that he felt relief, Giordano said, adding that a man who let Cummins use the cabin was not considered a suspect. He said Thursday he didn't want to talk about the teacher, Tad Cummins, who is accused of kidnapping the girl.

A day after they disappeared, Cummins was sacked from his teaching job at Culleoka Unit School, where Elizabeth had been a student in his forensics class.

Cummins' wife told authorities on March 14 that her husband wanted to get the loan "to meet their financial needs during his suspension from work without pay". Acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith says that if convicted of the federal charge, he faces at least 10 years in prison.

Authorities said that while Thomas was found healthy and seemingly unharmed, their main concern is how she is "emotionally and mentally".

Cummins was sacked about a month after being suspended - a day after the TBI issued an Amber Alert about the teen.

One of Elizabeth's school friends also said she saw the pair kiss in January, however both denied the claim. "Said they were from Colorado... and a house fire... lost everything". Cummins' wife also said the money from the loan, two handguns, clothes and toiletry items were missing after he left. He didn't buy "anything else of significance", the TBI said.

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