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21 April 2017, 09:59 | Gladys Abbott
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At about 11 p.m. CT Wednesday, an unidentified caller called a tip line to say Tad Cummins, 50, and his 15-year-old female student, Elizabeth Thomas, had "taken up residence in a cabin in Cecilville, California", Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman Josh Devinesaid at a Thursday afternoon press conference.
Tad Cummins has been on the run with 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas, a former student, since mid-March. Cummins told Barry, a caretaker on property that includes the gas station, that their names were John and Joanna.
"It is believed based on the investigation to date, as set forth herein, that Cummins, age 50, and victim, age 15, are involved in a sexual relationship and travelled in interstate commerce to continue their relationship and to engage in unlawful sexual activity", the criminal complaint against Cummins says.
Cummins is in custody in a California jail without bond, awaiting extradition to Tennessee to face charges of sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping, according to TBI. The charge carries a minimum of 10 years.
After a more than month-long search, Cummins and Thomas were found in a cabin in an isolated area of northern California Thursday morning. The two disappeared March 13. this came after Cummins was investigated by the school system when a student reported seeing the teacher kiss the girl at school.
He took out a $4,500 loan and picked up two prescription refills of an erectile dysfunction drug, the complaint says.
While Whatley and family members say they are happy to know Thomas is home, their focus shifts toward caring for Elizabeth when she returns home Friday.
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How they got to Cecilville, California, and why they went there remains a mystery to investigators.
"As we have said from the start, it only takes one tip", Gwyn said. "Her mood was very alternating", he said.
After the capture, Cummins was charged with one federal count of transportations of a minor across state lines for the goal of criminal sexual intercourse, said Jack Smith, acting USA attorney for Middle District of Tennessee.
Rep. Sheila Butt, a Republican state lawmaker who represents Columbia, said Thursday was a great day for her community.
She said she's proud of her community, and is confident local officials will find a way to learn from this entire ordeal.
"I have known Tad Cummins over the years, and I think I could honestly tell you that I'm not surprised that she's safe".
A report filed by her father also explained that she had told her friends she was "scared" of Cummins and felt that she was "in over her head". She will undergo a forensic examination and receive any care that she may need, authorities said. "I was like, whatever, they're on hard times or something".
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