Tad Cummins, a 50-year-old high school teacher in Culleoka, Tennessee, has been caught in the mountains of California after allegedly kidnapping his 15-year-old student.
Cummins and the teenager, Elizabeth Thomas, have been missing since March 13 when the pair fled Culleoka (they were facing an investigation into their supposed sexual relationship after a fellow student claimed they saw them kissing in an empty classroom). Allegedly, Cummins—who is already married, though is now estranged from his wife—had been researching teen marriage on the internet and had exchanged inappropriate emails with Thomas.
Cummins and Thomas were seen on security footage at a Walmart in Oklahoma City on March 15, but had not been spotted since, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. It wasn’t until over a month later that a cabin caretaker in Cecilville, California, reported to the TBI tip line that two people he suspected to be Cummins and Thomas had checked into his property. According to the tipster, Cummins told him that he and Thomas were newly married and lied about their ages, saying he was 44 and she was 22. The caretaker reports that Thomas would not get out of the car and would only communicate by whispering in Cummins’ ear.
With the caretaker’s assistance, the TBI successfully arrested Cummins.
According to CNN:
...The caretaker asked Cummins to come outside and help him build a rock wall on the property. When Cummins went outside, investigators were there to arrest him, O’Hare said.
Gilley confirmed that his team worked with a neighbor to draw Cummins out of the cabin in order to separate him from Elizabeth. Snipers surrounded the cabin as Cummins exited the cabin and was taken into custody. Elizabeth was walking behind him and was detained.
Thomas is in federal custody and could possibly be returned to her family in Tennessee on Friday.
Upon his arrest, Cummin told police, “I’m glad this is over.”
He now faces federal and state charges, including one federal count of transportations of a minor across state lines for the purpose of criminal sexual intercourse and state charges of sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping. However, Tennessee allows minors 13 and older to willingly leave their families, so the state must first prove that Thomas was “unlawfully removed or had her freedom restricted” when Cummins took her from her home.
An attorney for Thomas’s family told reporters that “there aren’t words in the English language to describe the level of relief and elation experienced” by her parents now that she has been found physically unharmed.