The Tennessee teacher suspected in the kidnapping of 15-year-old student Elizabeth Thomas has been apprehended and arrested in Northern California and the girl is alive and safe, according to authorities.
Fox News reports that Tad Cummins, 50, was arrested and nobody was injured during the arrest, including the freshman girl he abducted on March 13. Investigators said that Cummins had been “grooming” Elizabeth Thomas, who disappeared after she was last seen at a Shoney’s restaurant having breakfast with a friend. An Amber Alert was immediately enacted, and sightings of the pair were frequent in the beginning but grew more sparse as time went on.
According to ABC News, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department stated on Thursday that it had located Cummins’ vehicle. Siskiyou County is located in the northernmost part of California in a remote area along the Oregon state border. Elizabeth Thomas has been described by authorities as being “safely recovered,” and authorities are expected to give a press release soon.
Tad Cummins was Elizabeth’s teacher at Culleoka Unit School, where he was a health teacher and had an impressive resume. According to school officials, they were unaware of any inappropriate behavior on behalf of Cummins until another student observed him kissing Elizabeth Thomas and reported it.
Prior to becoming a teacher in 2011, Cummins was a respiratory therapist, including a supervisor, who mainly worked in hospitals. Teaching was a career he had thought of but never seemed to work out earlier in life, he wrote on his Maury County application in 2011, according to People.
“I have often thought that I would love to be a teacher, and just might excel at it, but it never seemed to be my destiny.”
He was charged with sexual misconduct and fired by the school system, but some allege the school did not do enough to protect Elizabeth, who seemed to both “idolize” and fear Cummins, telling her family that if she was not home by 6 p.m. on the day she was kidnapped to notify police. Elizabeth wanted to work in he health care industry and admired Cummins for his long history of work in that field, family said.
Cummins is a husband, father and grandfather, and self-proclaimed Christian, who listed impressive amounts of charity work on his resume to the school board. He left a note for his wife prior to his disappearance, but police believe it may have been a purposefully misleading diversionary tactic.
Cummins told officials prior to his disappearance that he was “helping Elizabeth with her home life.” The 15-year-old had gone to live with her father the year before and appeared to have no difficulties at home, authorities said. Instead, they believe that Cummins was “grooming” Elizabeth, a psychological weapon that pedophiles often employ to gain trust in their victims and create a “you and me against the world” mindset. However, Elizabeth was apparently afraid of Cummins, based on comments that she made to her family the day of her disappearance.
It was reported that Cummins had bought hair dye, survivalist items, and had researched “how to live off the grid,” so investigators believe he was mostly likely keeping Elizabeth in camping areas and remote locales. The pair was last pinged in Oklahoma, but authorities have not said with certainty how they were being tracked. Multiple tips of sightings came into the hotline daily.
Cummins’ wife, Jill, had urged him to come home and bring Elizabeth home, saying that “God’s grace was sufficient was for him” in a press conference. She stated that this behavior was unlike him.
“Tad, this is not you. This is not who you are. Please do the right thing and turn yourself in to the police and bring Beth home. We can help you get through this. No matter how far you’ve gone or what is happening right now, God’s grace is sufficient for you and he wants you to come home.”
There has been no comment from the family of Elizabeth Thomas regarding her safe rescue. Stay tuned for this developing story.
[Featured Image by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation]