The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced Tad Cummins, 50, was taken into custody and Elizabeth Thomas was safely rescued in Cecilville, California. The 12-year-old reported to a school resource officer after seeing what was described as a "romantic peck" between then-teacher Cummins and his 15-year-old student Thomas on January 23, according to court records.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigations spokesman Josh DeVine told NBC News' "Today" Friday morning that Elizabeth appears to be in a healthy physical state.
Cummins also faces a charge of transportation of a minor across state lines with the goal of having criminal sexual intercourse, Jack Smith, the acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said. That offense carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. They were last spotted by a Walmart surveillance camera in Oklahoma City on March 15, two days after they disappeared from Columbia, Tenn., almost 700 miles away. Police knew he was driving his Nissan Rogue and had been spotted in Oklahoma City on March 15 but from there the trail went cold.
The TBI says it was a tip from a caller that led them to Elizabeth Thomas and Tad Cummins. Cummins told arresting officers that he felt relief, Giordano said, adding that a man who let Cummins use the cabin was not considered a suspect. Cummins and Thomas are found later at a remote cabin in Cecilville, a community in northern California. "NEW: Here's the mugshot of Tad Cummins from California".
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"She was laughing, she was crying", he said.
Gwyn, the TBI director, said earlier this month, "This is not a fairy tale". Cummins told the caretaker that he was 44 years old and that the young woman with him was 22. Thomas' father, Anthony, said.
The friend told him something didn't seem right, O'Hare said.
Their vehicle did not have license plates and he noticed that the young woman would not get out of the auto when the man got out.
"And [Cummins] makes a reference to a body part of hers and how nice that looked", Maury County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Marcus Alright said. Cummins did all the talking and said they had been at the Black Bear Ranch commune, but left because they didn't like it there, according to Barry.
Cummins faces state charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor as well as the federal charges. On Thursday morning, Barry even helped law enforcement with their plan to catch Cummins. 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. "(Thomas) advised that Cummins possibly held both of her hands around the wrist area and may have been close to her face at the time, telling her she needed to calm down". That afternoon, investigators say, they determined Elizabeth was 80 miles away in Decatur, Alabama. She went "willingly" because Tad had her brainwashed and her state of mind was altered.
Berry describes Cummins' behavior as controlling and suspicious, saying, "He talked for her a lot".
A nationwide manhunt came to an end in Northern California Thursday.
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Tennessee girl safe, teacher arrested
He also said Thomas didn't seem right either. "She spoke very few words and he would try and like, talk for her a lot", he said. Because the AMBER Alert stated that Cummins could be armed, the department's Special Response Team responded carefully.