Tennessee student found safe, teacher arrested in California


After being missing for more than a month, a 15-year-old Tennessee girl was found near a cabin in a remote part of northern California and the 50-year-old teacher accused of kidnapping her was arrested, authorities said.

Cummins, 50, fled with Elizabeth, his student, from their small town of Culleoka, Tennessee, on March 13. There had been only one confirmed sighting of the pair - at an Oklahoma City Walmart just two days after Thomas went missing - in the almost six weeks since the teenager was reported missing by her parents. But then the trail has gone cold.

The two disappeared a few weeks after a student reported seeing Cummins and Thomas kissing in a classroom.

"They were going to try and contain him but thought, 'Naw, he's supposed to be armed and unsafe.'" Cummins was on Tennessee's 10 Most Wanted list.

The caller said Cummins had taken up residence in Cecilville, about two hours from the nearest police station.

Barry said Cummins and Thomas were looking for the Black Bear Ranch Commune but were flat broke and out of gas. Deputies there found Cummins' Nissan Rogue and watched it for several hours before taking him into custody without incident. Again, Maury County Public Schools is grateful to everyone who worked tirelessly to bring Elizabeth Thomas home safely.

As for Cummins, Acting United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Jack Smith said he faces federal charges.

An attorney for the girl's family has said her father didn't find out about the report of the kiss or the school's investigation until a law enforcement agent showed up at his door. Thomas was right behind him and she detained for her protection.

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"Our main concern now is how is she emotionally", Cooper said.

A report filed by her father also explained that she had told her friends she was "scared" of Cummins and felt that she was "in over her head". The charge carries a minimum of 10 years.

They have only implied the pair had sexual relations by charging Cummins with sexual contact with a minor and a federal charge of transporting a minor across state lines to have sexual intercourse.

"This is not somewhere they had frequently visited", her attorney said.

The girl was found safe on Thursday and the teacher was arrested.

On the morning the pair went missing, the affidavit says Cummins lied to his wife, telling her he had a job interview and needed to borrow her vehicle, the 2015 Nissan Rogue.

The statement continued, "Thanks go to all who have kept the message of finding Elizabeth Thomas and working on her safe return as top-of-mind throughout the nation".

"She is excited that they were found and nobody was hurt", Cox said. "I told them it couldn't possibly be true".