After A Monthlong Search, Student Found Safe, Teacher Arrested

SISKIYOU COUNTY (CBS13) — A nationwide manhunt came to an end in Northern California Thursday. After a month of searching, authorities arrested the Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping his 15-year-old student, with the help of a good Samaritan.

After a frantic few weeks, 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas’s family is relieved, while authorities are thankful the ending wasn’t worse. The six-week-long manhunt started in the small town of Columbia, Tennessee. Thursday morning, it ended in a remote area of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Siskiyou County.

“It only takes one tip,” said Mark Gwyn, Director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, “and this is yet another example of the value of the public helping us to rescue a kidnapping victim.”

Teacher Tad Cummins, 50. disappeared with his student on March 13, weeks after a student reported seeing them kissing inside a classroom. A nationwide Amber Alert followed and eventually lead Siskiyou County deputies to a remote cabin, where Cummins surrendered and Thomas was found unharmed.

“I would describe the cabin as a one-room cabin. They were sleeping on a little foam mattress,” said a lieutenant with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.

Locals in the tight-knit community are shocked, while Thomas’ family is overjoyed.

“It appears that she is healthy and that she is not injured and this is amazing,” said Kat Thomas, the victim’s sister.

An attorney for the girl’s family says she will be reunited with her family in Tennessee on Friday.

“This family is in the debt of the media and is so thankful beyond words,” said attorney Jason Whatley, “and now their daughter, their sister is on her way home.”

A happy ending following weeks of worry.

“There’s still a lot of work to do. You have a victim that needs a lot of care and counseling,” said Siskiyou County Sheriff Joe Lopey.

Cummins will be arraigned in Siskiyou County on Friday and then extradited back to Tennessee.

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