A former high school teacher wanted in connection with the disappearance of a Tennessee teen has been arrested in northern California and the girl he kidnapped has been found safe, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Thursday. Elizabeth Thomas is safe and Tad Cummins has been arrested.
The agency tweeted just before noon that Tad Cummins had been arrested and that Elizabeth Thomas had been safely recovered. A press conference is scheduled for 4:00 P.M. today in Nashville.
Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Offices spokeswoman Kelly Giordano said earlier Thursday that Cummins’ vehicle was found in their jurisdiction Wednesday night. The county is in a remote area near the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, about three hours northwest of Redding, Ca.
An Amber Alert was initially issued for Thomas after her parents reported her missing on March 13. She is from Columbia, Tennessee.
Rep. Sheila Butt, a Republican state lawmaker who represents Columbia, said Thursday meant quite a lot to the community.
“When something like this happens, a community gets together and feels like this is one of our children,” Butt said. “This just feels like our prayers have been answered, and the lost sheep is home.”
Butt continued, saying she is proud of her community and believes that local authorities will learn from this terrible situation.
“I have known Tad Cummins over the years, and I think I could honestly tell you that I’m not surprised that she’s safe. I will let the courts deal with the ramifications of what happened here,” Butt said.
Authorities were after Cummins on charges of aggravated kidnapping. He was Thomas’ 50-year-old high school teacher at Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tennessee. He has since been fired.
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.”
Who Is Elizabeth Thomas?
Elizabeth Thomas is a 15-year-old high school student who was reported missing on March 13 by her parents. She was found safe Thursday, April 20, and Cummins was arrested.