A former high school teacher wanted in connection with the disappearance of a Tennessee teen has been arrested in northern California and the girl he kidnapped has been found safe, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Thursday.
The agency tweeted just before noon that Tad Cummins had been arrested and Elizabeth Thomas had been safely recovered. A 4 p.m. ET press conference is scheduled in Nashville, the bureau later tweeted.
Siskiyou County Sheriff's Offices spokeswoman Kelly Giordano said earlier Thursday that Cummins' vehicle was found in their jurisdiction Wednesday night. The county is in a remote area near the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, about three hours northwest of Redding, Ca.
Authorities issued an Amber Alert for Thomas of Columbia, Tenn., after her parents reported her missing March 13.
Rep. Sheila Butt, a Republican state lawmaker who represents Columbia, said Thursday was a great day for her community.
“When something like this happens, a community gets together and feels like this is one of our children,” Butt said. “This just feels like our prayers have been answered, and the lost sheep is home.”
She said she’s proud of her community, and is confident local officials will find a way to learn from this entire ordeal.
“I have known Tad Cummins over the years, and I think I could honestly tell you that I’m not surprised that she’s safe. I will let the courts deal with the ramifications of what happened here,” Butt said.
Cummins was wanted by authorities on charges including aggravated kidnapping. Cummins was Thomas' 50-year-old high-school teacher at Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tenn. He has since been fired.
A warrant was issued for Cummins' arrest after TBI suggested he "may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom this vulnerable young girl for some time in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her."