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Teacher accused of kidnapping student due in court

21 April 2017

Two loaded handguns were found in the cabin, along with other personal items belonging both to Cummins and Thomas. "It's kind of like a death, because the Tad I knew is gone", Jill Cummins said. An AMBER Alert had been issued for Elizabeth.

An AMBER Alert was issued across the state of Tennessee the following day, and Cummins was added to the TBI's Top 10 Most Wanted list on March 17.

But the search for answers is far from over.

Jason Whatley, the attorney representing Elizabeth Thomas' family, said the teen underwent a medical interview and a forensics interview before getting on the plane.

School officials said Thomas' safe return is "wonderful news for our community, and now, we can begin healing as a community, school district, and as families touched by the AMBER Alert". A citizen who had befriended the pair assisted police on the scene.

According to law enforcement in Tennessee, another student reported Cummins to school administrators in January.

Investigators obtained images from surveillance cameras at a Walmart in Oklahoma City showing Cummins and Elizabeth on the afternoon of March 15, two days after he allegedly abducted her. But for weeks, the trail went cold.

Elizabeth and Mr Cummins were found at a commune in Cecilville in northern California, near the border with OR the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Thursday.

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The TBI earlier had said the two were found in a commune, but later backed off that description.

The caller said he had taken up residence in a remote cabin in Cecilville, DeVine said.

O'Hare said a friend of his also was at the property and saw the couple.

He also said Thomas didn't seem right either. Cummins told the caretaker that he was 44 years old and that the young woman with him was 22. Deputies say they also located multiple stolen license plates in Cummins' auto.

The local sheriff's department says the terrain and lack of cell phone coverage presented a challenge in the arrest and rescue.

Just before noon, the TBI confirmed Cummins had been arrested and the girl was safe.

The report recommended that the girl be taken out of Cummins' class and that he be reprimanded to uphold his professional responsibility. Elizabeth was walking behind him and was detained.

"We're very happy that we're going to see her again", the dad said on "Good Morning America". As of Thursday evening, her family was waiting to communicate with her before speaking publicly.

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Authorities said Elizabeth was physically unharmed, but they declined to comment on her emotional well-being or where the pair has been since they vanished last month.

"As we have said from the start, it only takes one tip", Gwyn said.

Lawrence County Attorney General Brent Cooper told the press that Cummins will face charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor.

But state law allows children older than 12 to decide whether to leave their families, unless their removal or confinement "is accomplished by force, threat or fraud".

That means to prove a kidnapping took place, prosecutors will have to show Elizabeth was unlawfully removed or had her freedom restricted. The girl was found safe on Thursday and the teacher was arrested. They were found almost six weeks later and nearly 2,500 miles from Tennessee.

Thomas added he hadn't had the opportunity to speak with his daughter yet but plans to talk with her sometime today. While his wife has now filed for divorce, she said she is hopeful he will come home. She had no idea why her husband went to Northern California.

The TBI says they received a tip at 11 p.m. "I was like, whatever, they're on hard times or something".

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