CECILVILLE, CA (WJHL/AP) – A tip to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, late Wednesday night, lead to the end of a more than a month-long Amber Alert search.
The former middle Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old student was arrested on Thursday in northern California near the border of the state of Oregon.
Authorities in Siskiyou County, CA rescued teenager Elizabeth Thomas and arrested 50-year-old Tad Cummings after finding the pair in a rural cabin in Cecilville early Thursday morning.
Thomas was the subject of an Amber Alert that was originally issued on March 14. Investigators say the teen had been kidnapped since March 13 by her teacher, Cummins, a former health sciences teacher at her school in Maury County.
Authorities in California found the Nissan Rogue, the pair were traveling in, late Wednesday night.
According to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Giordano, the license plate had been removed from the car. Authorities confirmed it belonged to Cummins through the VIN number.
The sheriff’s later found Cummins and Thomas. Cummins as surrendered, authorities said, without incident. And Thomas as found safe.
The TBI says, “…efforts to reunite here with her family remained ongoing.”
The TBI says it was assisted by a variety of agencies across the county including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Cummins remains in custody at the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department in California without bond. Cummins is awaiting extradition to Tennessee to face charges of sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping.
“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.”
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.
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.
A lawyer for the girl’s family has said the teacher was allowed to continue working at the school for two weeks after he was reported kissing the student. Attorney Jason Whatley has said the school system must have not believed the student’s report.
The school’s investigative files provided to The Associated Press by the attorney show that both Cummins and the girl denied kissing. 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 Jan. 30.
The report recommended that the girl be taken out of Cummins’ class and that he be reprimanded to uphold his professional responsibility. The report also recommended that the administration monitor Cummins’ classroom to make sure students weren’t there when they weren’t supposed to be.
The teacher would later be reprimanded on Feb. 3 by school principal Penny Love after the girl was seen in Cummins classroom for a little more than half an hour that day. In her letter, Love said the girl being in his classroom was a violation of the principal’s order to him.
The school system didn’t suspend Cummins until Feb. 6. He was fired about a month later, a day after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Amber Alert about the teen.
Last month, the teacher’s wife of 31 years filed for divorce. Court records show that Jill Cummins sued her then-missing husband on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct. The wife, who works for the Maury County school system, said she had not seen her husband since March 13. The couple has two children together.
Siskiyou County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Giordano did not immediately return a call for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.