Tad Cummins faces federal charges, Elizabeth Thomas safe

Cummins and Thomas were found in a cabin in northern California on Thursday. (NBC Video) 

A tip Wednesday night helped authorities track down a Middle Tennessee teen missing for more than a month, and her accused abductor.  

Tad Cummins, 50, has been on the run with 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas since mid-March.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it received a tip late Wednesday evening indicating that Cummins and Thomas may have been in a cabin in a remote area of Cecilville, California. 

The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office then discovered Cummins' vehicle and put it under surveillance. 

As daylight broke Thursday morning, deputies were able to take Cummins into custody without incident and safely recover Elizabeth Thomas, TBI spokesperson Josh DeVine said.

"All we know is that she is healthy and unharmed. Knowing that, our main concern is how is she emotionally," said District Attorney General Brent Cooper, "If she needs help, whatever help we can offer, we will make sure that's provided to her."

TBI, FBI, and Maury County authorities traveled Thursday afternoon to the scene. TBI described the area as extremely remote with little to no cell service. 

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During Thursday's press conference, Acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith announced they have also filed federal charges against Cummins. 

TBI stressed how this case truly shows just how one tip can make a difference. 

"We mobilized a nation during these 6 weeks. When you do that, you can't hide, " TBI director Mark Gwyn said. “Our Intelligence Analysts and Agents have worked tirelessly since issuing this AMBER Alert to process more than 1,500 leads from all 50 states." 

Authorities issued an Amber Alert for Thomas of Columbia, Tenn. after her parents reported her missing March 13.

Elizabeth Thomas' father, Anthony, said he could not wait to see his daughter again.

“Very happy, very happy,” he said.

Anthony Thomas said the first things he would tell his daughter: “I love you. Glad to have you back. I’m just overjoyed.”

But he was concerned about his daughter's mental health and planned to get her help immediately.

"It may be a long road but at least we've got her back now," he said.

Cummins was Elizabeth's 50-year-old high-school teacher at Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tenn. He has since been fired.

Many have questioned if Elizabeth went willingly. TBI Director Mark Gwyn explained when a child is involved, they are always a victim.

"At the end of the day, she's 15-years-old," Gwyn said, "She's with a young girl that's a grown man, 50-years-old. He needs to be held accountable for kidnapping this girl."

Authorities said Elizabeth will be returned to Tennessee on a TBI aircraft. 

Cummins remains in custody in Siskiyou County without bond, awaiting extradition to Tennessee to face charges. 

The Tennessean and Associated Press contributed to this report

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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