Elizabeth Thomas was found safe on Thursday in California, more than a month after she was allegedly abducted by Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins and has been reunited with her family, says an attorney for the family.
Questions have come to light, however, over the relationship between 50-year-old Tad Thomas and the teen, and some question the relationship between the teacher and his 15-year-old student.
According to NBC News, Elizabeth Thomas was recovered after the owner of a remote Cecilville, California cabin, in which Tad Cummins held the teen, tipped off law enforcement.
Jason Whatley, an attorney for Thomas’ family, said in a statement that Elizabeth Thomas was at a safe location and resting comfortably, but had suffered trauma from the experience.
“There is no doubt that she suffered severe emotional trauma and that her process of recovery is only just beginning.”
Whatley said the family is “extremely grateful for the thoughts and prayers” that they have received but asked for privacy as they come to grips with what happened.
TBI, FBI Agents and Maury Co deputies en route to California to bring Elizabeth Thomas home to Tennessee. pic.twitter.com/EChfH0beCq— Susan Niland (@TBISusanNiland) April 20, 2017
Cummins was Elizabeth Thomas’ forensics teacher at their Maury County high school, located south of Nashville. According to police, Cummins had researched teen marriages and was spotted earlier this year kissing Thomas. They reportedly attended the same church in Maury County, according to a posted tweet by Stephen Davis.
A federal warrant was issued Thursday in Nashville for Cummins to arrest the teacher under Title 18 of the United States code that prohibits “transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in sexual activity.”
Whatley said that he was “taken aback” by how Thomas appeared when he met her, saying that she was much smaller than he expected considering the photos that were circulated by the media, which depicted the teen as being much older.
“Elizabeth is a little child. She could easily pass for 12. The primary photo used and reprinted… is inaccurate. She is a little girl in every sense of the word. This was the abduction of an impressionable, little child.”
Griffin Barry, the owner of the cabin who tipped off authorities, told KOBI he became suspicious when he realized Tad Cummins didn’t have money and how he shut down the teen every time Elizabeth Thomas said anything.
“He talked for her a lot. [Thomas] was kind of shy and timid, or something. He said she was 24, and he said he was 38.”
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said Elizabeth Thomas appeared very emotional when she was recovered from the cabin, noting that her emotions indicated they had a “relationship.”
“I can tell you that her mood was kind of escalated… you know sometimes she was emotional, you know it was a very traumatic experience for her. It was kind of a roller coaster of emotions for her.”
Cummins was charged with sexual contact and aggravated kidnapping and will appear in court today. Police say he was arrested with two loaded handguns in the cabin.
Ashlee Riggins, Elizabeth Thomas’ friend, told NBC News that she was surprised that the teen and Cummins made it all the way to California and was grateful that the owner of the cabin alerted authorities.
“I [texted] her, ‘I’m so glad that you have been found and I can’t wait to see you after so long, I love you’ as soon as I found out. I was worried about her safety with his two handguns.”
Tad Cummins’ sister Daphne Quinn told NBC News Monday that she is horrified by her brother’s actions but still loves him.
“He’s done this horrible thing, that he has to pay for. But he’s still my brother and I love him.”
[Featured Images by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation]