Elizabeth Thomas and Tad Cummins, a former high school teacher accused of luring the 15-year-old student into his car and disappearing with the girl, are pictured in this police photo released after his arrest Thursday. Thomas was found safe. (Courtesy of Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)
Tad Cummins, a former high school health teacher who is accused of abducting a 15-year-old girl, was apprehended in Northern California, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Elizabeth Thomas, the teen Cummins is accused of abducting, has “been safely recovered,” the agency tweeted Thursday afternoon without providing more detail.
Authorities said a news conference about Thursday’s incident is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Nashville.
The teen and Cummins — a 50-year-old from Middle Tennessee — had been missing since March 13, when an Amber Alert was issued. Cummins was Elizabeth’s high school teacher at Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tenn.
“Investigative efforts have revealed a troubling pattern of behavior by Tad Cummins, suggesting the 50-year-old 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,” the agency said in a statewide Amber Alert.
“Having now been on the run for more than five days, Cummins may have taken her, frankly, anywhere,” the agency said last month.
On March 13, video surveillance at a Columbia gas station showed Cummins filling up his silver Nissan Rogue. A short time later, investigators say, he drove to a Shoney’s restaurant, where Elizabeth had been dropped off by a friend and was waiting. Investigators said they think he manipulated her into leaving with him, but he wasn’t authorized to take a minor, and she wasn’t old enough to consent. That afternoon, investigators say, they determined Elizabeth was 80 miles away in Decatur, Ala.
Then, nothing. After their disappearance, investigators said they had received hundreds of tips from 24 states, but not enough information to tighten the dragnet despite a multi-state manhunt and Cummins’s addition to Tennessee’s most-wanted list.
In a news release, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Cummins may be keeping Elizabeth out of sight of authorities, possibly sleeping in his car or in a rural community.
Last month, the agency released new images of Cummins in an effort to keep the case in the spotlight. The pictures were from a week before Cummins and Elizabeth disappeared, and they showed him wearing a camouflage cap and pushing a shopping cart at a store.
AMBER ALERT: Here are new pictures of suspect Tad Cummins, captured the week prior to the kidnapping of Elizabeth Thomas. Please RT! pic.twitter.com/CSWajVSiGP
— TBI (@TBInvestigation) March 20, 2017