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Teacher faces federal charge in student case

21 April 2017

After five weeks on the run, Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins, who kidnapped and fled with 15-year-old student Elizabeth Thomas, has been arrested in California, authorities said Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Jack Smith said a federal charge has been filed against Cummins.

The two were found in Cecilville, a rural town in northern California, after Tennessee Bureau of Investigation received a call to the TBI tip line around 11 p.m. CDT on Wednesday night.

The break came when someone spotted Cummins' Nissan Rogue in a remote part of Siskiyou County, California - more than 2,000 miles from Culleoka, Tennessee.

A middle-Tennessee teen that's been missing for more than a month has been found safe in northern California and her accused abductor is in custody. However, now that she has been found, we at WPSD are following what is also the Associated Press' policy and not naming her.

The former teacher is charged with aggravated kidnapping in the AMBER Alert case and also faces one count of sexual contact with a minor after he allegedly kissed Thomas at school earlier this year in late January.

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Brent Cooper, district attorney for Maury County, where the kidnapping occurred, said Cummins' extradition would likely take weeks to arrange.

Family lawyer Jason Whatley told reporters outside court that their ultimate goal was "nothing less than just to get Elizabeth back home safely in Tennessee".

"I feel a little amusing because there were all kinds of indications that there was something a little amusing going on never occurred to me that she was 15 years old". Cummins told Barry, a caretaker on property that includes a gas station, that their names were John and Joanna.

"She is excited that they were found and nobody was hurt", Cox said.

Berry describes Cummins' behavior as controlling and suspicious, saying, "He talked for her a lot".

"It is believed based on the investigation to date, as set forth herein, that Cummins, age 50, and victim, age 15, are involved in a sexual relationship and traveled in interstate commerce to continue their relationship and to engage in unlawful sexual activity", the criminal complaint against Cummins says. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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Cummins, who is married, and Thomas became the subject of a nationwide search after the teacher apparently lured Thomas into his vehicle outside of a Shoney's restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee, about 45 miles south of Nashville.

Tad Cummins was arrested after an unidentified person called a tip line. Investigators were then able to use the car's VIN number to confirm that it belonged to Cummins and kept the auto under surveillance for several hours, Devine said. He said that after seeing a picture online he recognized them instantly. An AMBER Alert was issued to help locate the teen girl.

He said the family planned to offer Elizabeth therapy, and understood that she would need time to recover.

Surveillance video from Wal-Mart stores in Oklahoma City and Guymon captured video of the student and teacher.

According to WSMV, the pair were found at a commune in Cecilville, Calif.

Cummins now faces federal charges for taking a minor over state lines for the objective of sex, WBIR reported. Prosecutors will have to determine if Thomas was unlawfully removed from her home or had her freedom restricted in order to prove a kidnapping took place.

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