Missing Tennessee student Elizabeth Thomas and the man who allegedly kidnapped her, former teacher Tad Cummins, were found safe in California Thursday. The two had been missing for more than a month.
Cummins, 50, was arrested at the scene, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confirmed on Twitter. A spokesperson for the sheriff's office in Siskiyou County, a remote area in northern California, said that Cummins’ vehicle was found in the jurisdiction Wednesday, the Tennesseean reported.
An Amber alert was issued for Thomas after she went missing March 13. Police immediately suspected Cummins, her former teacher, of abducting the 15-year-old.
Cummins was previously a teacher at the Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tennessee, where Thomas was a student. He was under investigation by police for an inappropriate relationship with Thomas after an unidentified student saw them kiss inside his classroom in January. The day after Cummins and Thomas disappeared, he was fired from the school.
Thomas left her family home for a local restaurant March 13 but did not return. Before leaving, she told a sibling that if she wasn’t home for dinner, they should call the police. Surveillance footage from a gas station near the restaurant showed Cummins filling up his car. An amber alert was issued for Thomas shortly after.
During the search, investigators cautioned the public that the situation was "not a romance."
“She is 15, a child. He is 50, a grown man. She’s a high school freshman. He’s a former teacher. This is, and was, not a romance,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director Mark Gwynn told reporters shortly after the two went missing. “This was manipulation solely to benefit Tad Cummins. This is not a fairy tale. This is a case of kidnapping.”
The pair was only spotted once in the month they were missing, when TBI officials confirmed a sighting of the two on security footage from a Walmart in Oklahoma City.
TBI said it planned to hold a news conference later in the day to release details.