The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced Amber Alert suspect Tad Cummins has been arrested, and the teen he is accused of kidnapping, Elizabeth Thomas, is safe.
The two disappeared about a month ago.
Tad Cummins was Elizabeth Thomas's teacher.
They were found near a cabin in the rural town of Salmon, River in Northern California.
“We’re so happy that California police worked quickly and were able to find them and get her safe,’ one of Thomas’ sisters told The Tennessean. “I believe the FBI are going to make sure she’s healthy before she comes home. We’ll make sure she’ll get what therapy she needs and that she’s safe, that she knows she’s safe.”
They went missing March 13. The TBI worked more than 2,000 tips.
Thomas is 15. Cummins is 50, married and a grandfather.
In the days before the two disappeared, Cummins searched “teen marriage” on the internet. He also searched to learn what features of his vehicle might allow law enforcement to track him.
The TBI believes Cummins may have abused his position as Thomas’ teacher “in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her."
During one incident about two weeks before Cummins and Thomas disappeared, one of Thomas’ fellow students reported an incident to the school in which the student said Thomas and Cummins appeared to be kissing at school. Both Thomas and Cummins denied the allegation, and school officials allowed Cummins to continue working at the school while school officials investigated the incident, The Tennesseean reported.
Cummins was fired by the school the day after he and Thomas disappeared.
“This is not a fairytale. It’s a case of kidnapping,” TBI Director Mark Gwyn said. “She is 15; a child. He is 50; a grown man. She’s a high school freshman. He’s a former teacher. This is not a romance.”
“She may not realize that she’s a victim, but she is certainly a victim,” TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said.
A warrant was previously issued for Cummins for sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping. There was a $1,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
The TBI will be holding a news conference releasing more information later.
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