'Pure joy,' but concern, too, for family of formerly missing Tenn. student

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — The brother of the Tennessee teen allegedly kidnapped by a former teacher says that now that she is finally back with her family, “she’s like herself and in ways she’s not.”

Elizabeth Thomas, 15, returned to Tennessee on Friday and is currently in a “safe location with family and friends where she is comfortable and resting,” said Jason Whatley, who is representing the Thomas family.

“We’re all excited,” her brother James Thomas said. “It’s like just pure joy.”

She was allegedly kidnapped by Tad Cummins, 50, more than a month ago, and taken on the run until he was captured Thursday in Northern California.

“Well, right now … in ways she’s like herself and in ways she’s not,” her brother said. “It’s kind of distressing to see her like that. It’s troubling.”

The teen was transported home on an aircraft owned by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The agency sent the plane to northern California after Elizabeth was found on Thursday, along with Cummins, in a remote cabin in Cecilville, in Siskiyou County, a rural, isolated area near the California-Oregon border that has little to no cell service, authorities said.

Cummins surrendered to police without incident as he exited the cabin, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department. He faces charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, said Lawrence County Attorney General Brent Cooper.

The U.S. State Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee has also filed a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines with the intent of having criminal sexual intercourse against Cummins, according to U.S. attorney Jack Smith. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Cummins also faces charges in Siskiyou County for kidnapping and possession of stolen property, according to the sheriff’s department. He was expected to be arraigned in California on Friday, but the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department said he was taken into FBI custody and will likely be brought back to Tennessee. The federal warrant provided by the FBI superseded any local charges filed in Tennessee and California.

Elizabeth had been missing since March 13 when she was allegedly kidnapped by Cummins, who had been added to Tennessee’s Top 10 Most Wanted list.

After Elizabeth was found, she was described by authorities to be “healthy and unharmed,” but they added that the main concern is the state of her emotional and mental well-being. 

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Share this article

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Plus