Elizabeth Thomas, the missing 15-year-old teenager who had been missing for two months, and Tad Cummins, her alleged abductor, were found safe and sound Thursday in a remote part of northern California. Now an arrest warrant has been made public, revealing disturbing details about the pair’s relationship, and giving some glimpse into their life on the run.
The Beginnings Of The Relationship
As The Birmingham News reported, as far back as January, Thomas’ fellow students at Culleoka Unit School began to suspect that something inappropriate was going on between Cummins, 50, and Thomas, 15.
— NewsChannel 5 (@NC5) April 20, 2017
On January 23, a 12-year-old student reported to school officials that he or she witnessed Cummins give Thomas a “romantic peck.”
When school officials investigated the incident, it emerged that Cummins viewed himself as something of a father figure to Thomas. Cummins apparently viewed Thomas as a troubled girl in need of help. He had taken her to church with him, he claimed. An investigation of Elizabeth’s phone revealed that the two had had telephone contact.
School officials didn’t see things that way, however and forbade the two from having any contact. That didn’t last: on February 3, they were caught in a classroom together, leading to Cummins’ suspension.
Going On The Run
Thomas was last seen by her family on the morning of Monday, March 13, at about 7:45 a.m., when a friend dropped her off at a Shoney’s restaurant. Hours later, security camera footage from a Decatur, Alabama, gas station showed the pair about 80 miles away.
Meanwhile, Cummins’ wife, Jill, came home from work to find that Cummins had taken her vehicle, a Nissan Rogue, as well as about $5,000 in cash, a couple of guns, clothes, and toiletries. He also left a note – a note that investigators would later say was a red herring designed to mislead police – saying that he was going to Virginia Beach to “clear his head.”
“He said he would be back and urged his wife not to call police. Cummins denied doing anything wrong and asked his wife to forgive him. At the time, the wife did not contact police.”
In fact, Cummins and Thomas went west, not east, as investigators would later determine.
As Amber Alerts went up across the country, Cummins and Thomas were not heard from for two solid weeks. Then, on March 29, employees of an Oklahoma City motel told the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that a patron matching Cummins’ description had checked into a room. Further, the employee said that Cummins had asked directions to WalMart.
Security camera footage from an Oklahoma City WalMart conclusively placed the pair in that location.
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The two purchased women’s razors, chocolate, cheese cubes and KY Jelly (a sexual lubricant), according to the criminal affidavit.
Captured In California
Authorities had suspected that Cummins, who had watched survival shows on TV before allegedly taking off with Thomas, would take the girl to a rural area, away from prying eyes of the general public. Specifically, they asked people in campgrounds and other rural areas to be particularly vigilant in keeping an eye out for the pair.
Not surprisingly, when Cummins was finally captured on Thursday morning, he and Thomas were in a remote cabin in northern California, some two hours away from the nearest police station. Further, authorities had a difficult time getting to the location on the narrow roads, some of which were covered with snow.
As of this writing, it is not clear how Cummins’ and Thomas’ location was made known to investigators. Authorities had said last week that Cummins was on blood pressure medication that was about to run out, and told pharmacists and emergency rooms to be on the lookout for him. However, it is not known, for now, whether or not that played a role in his capture.
This is a developing story. More information about the capture and rescue of Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas will be provided as it becomes available.
[Featured Image by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation]