AMBER Alert suspect Tad Cummins arrested, Elizabeth Thomas found safe in California

(TBI/ Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office)

AMBER Alert suspect Tad Cummins has been arrested and subject Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas has been found safe after their disappearance sparked a nationwide manhunt.

Cummins was arrested in Cecilville, California on Thursday morning after someone spotted his Nissan Rogue. Cummins, who was previously put on TBI's Top 10 Most Wanted, is lodged in Siskiyou County and a criminal complaint outlining the AMBER Alert timeline.

Thomas was found safe. Siskiyou County officials did say Thomas was "emotional" toward authorities.

Officials said Cummins developed a relationship with a ranch owner ans worked in exchange for food.

FBI agents took custody of Thomas after her recovery. Thomas will be taken back to Tennessee by TBI plane. Jason Whatley said the family is elated to get the good news today.

Cummins will be arraigned Friday morning. He's facing charges of sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping charges out of Maury County and a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines for the purposes of having criminal sexual intercourse.

Cummins, 50, is Thomas', 15, former teacher in Maury County. The schools issued the following statement upon the safe recovery of Thomas:

The map below shows all known locations given by law enforcement or prosecutors related to the timeline of the AMBER Alert.


LIVE: Elizabeth Thomas' family attorney to speak following her safe recovery:

Northern California officials brief media on Thomas being found safe, Cummins being arrested:

UPDATE: (3 p.m.)

AMBER Alert suspect Tad Cummins is now facing a federal charge in the kidnapping of Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Siskiyou County, California deputies kept Cummins’ Nissan Rouge under surveillance for several hours before taking him into custody and recovering Elizabeth Thomas.

TBI Spokesman Josh DeVine said a tip was called into TBI headquarters about 11 p.m. Wednesday about Cummins and Thomas possibly spotted in a cabin in northern California, and that they had been there about a week and a half.

TBI reached out to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office who said they received the same tip. Deputies were faced with challenges due to the remote, isolated area in which the sighting was reported.

Deputies were able to find Cummins’ Nissan Rogue, confirmed by VIN number, and kept it under surveillance until daylight broke Thursday morning. At that time, they were able to take Cummins into custody and safely recover Thomas.

The District Attorney said Thomas was found healthy and unharmed. The main concern right now is her mental heath.

TBI, FBI agents and Maury County deputies are en route to California to bring Thomas home to Tennessee. She will be brought back on a TBI plane. Thomas has been missing since March 13.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Jack Smith said Cummins is now facing a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines for the purposes of having criminal sexual intercourse. He will first face a U.S. Magistrate in Sacramento and be extradited to Tennessee.

Cummins is also facing aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor charges out of Maury County.

TBI said this is an active and ongoing investigation.


UPDATE (2:30 p.m.)

Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office PIO Kelly Giordano says the capture of Tad Cummins and rescue of Elizabeth Thomas came thanks to a tip called into the department on Wednesday night.

Giordano says an officer responded to a tip Cummins' Nissan Rogue was spotted. The responding officer found the vehicle, which had no license plates. The officer ran the VIN number, which came back as Cummins' vehicle. The SCSO they mobilized their Special Response Team (SRT) this morning to Cecilville, where the vehicle was found. SRT officers found Cummins and Thomas at a residence located near a commune in Cecilville.

Cummins did not resist arrest and was taken into custody just after 9 a.m. Thursday morning. He's currently in transit from Cecilville to the Siskiyou County Jail located in Yreka, California. The area where they were found is two hours away from the jail.

A worker at the Black Bear Ranch said Cummins and Thomas were found near the ranch, which is a very remote, mountainous area with no power lines or electricity.

Cummins will be held on charges of sexual conduct with a minor and aggravated kidnapping. He has a hold for his extradition to Tennessee, placed by the TBI.

“What happened in California this morning, however, proves it only takes one person to lead to a successful end. We are extremely thankful the hard work of all partners in this search has paid off,” TBI Director Mark Gywn said. “We’re also grateful for the public’s support and vigilance throughout this search effort.”

Cummins and Thomas disappeared on March 13, sparking a national BOLO and country-wide manhunt. TBI received more than 1,500 tips from all 50 states in the case.

Cummins is facing charges of sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping.

In a petition filed two weeks ago, Thomas’ family claimed Cummins threatened Thomas, groomed her and stalked her. A courthouse hearing ins that petition has been scheduled for May 1.

Efforts to reunite Thomas with her family are ongoing at this time.

Maury County Schools released the following statement:

The news of Elizabeth Thomas’ safe return is wonderful news for our community, and now, we can begin healing as a community, school district and as families touched by the AMBER alert. Thanks go to all who have kept the message of finding Elizabeth Thomas and working on her safe return as top-of-mind throughout the nation. The efforts of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Maury County Sheriff’s office, nationwide law enforcement community and media outlets promoting awareness of this case have brought us to this safe conclusion, and Maury County Public Schools wants to thank these many professionals for the good news today. We continue our efforts here with the policy-review task force whose members are focused on developing consistent procedures to assist each school when faced with allegations and investigations. Again, Maury County Public Schools is grateful to everyone who worked tirelessly to bring Elizabeth Thomas home safely.

Fox 17 News reached out to the Thomas’ lawyer and are awaiting a statement. We will provide continuing coverage on Fox 17 News at 5:30 p.m.


TBI said Thursday Tennessee AMBER Alert suspect Tad Cummins has been arrested and Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas has been found safe in Northern California.

Cummins, 50, is accused of kidnapping Maury County teen and his former student, Thomas, 15. The two disappeared on March 13, sparking a country-wide manhunt. TBI received about 1,500 tips in the case.

Cummins is facing charges of sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping.

In documents filed by the family last week, the family claims Thomas' accused abductor threatened Thomas, groomed her, and stalked her.

Maury County District Attorney Brent Cooper said Cummins left a note for his wife, who has since filed for divorce, to try to create a diversion to buy Cummins some time by leading law enforcement in the wrong direction.

Details surrounding Cummins' arrest have not yet been released.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Fox 17 News will have a special report at 5:30.

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