Tad Cummins arrested, Elizabeth Thomas rescued at California commune

Elizabeth Thomas [L], Tad Cummins [R] (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

CECILVILLE, Calif. (WKRN) – The former Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old student was arrested Thursday at a northern California commune.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced Tad Cummins, 50, was taken into custody and Elizabeth Thomas was safely rescued in Cecilville, California, in Siskiyou County.

The TBI says they received a tip late Wednesday night and notified authorities in Siskiyou County, who rescued the teenager early Thursday morning. The pair was found at the Black Bear Ranch commune, according to our ABC-affiliate KDRV-TV.

The Nissan Rogue the two were travelling in was also located Thursday with the license plate removed. It was verified to belong to Cummins through its VIN number, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.

Cummins surrendered without incident, according to the TBI. Thomas was subsequently recovered by officers, and efforts to reunite her with her family are ongoing.

The two vanished from Columbia, Tennessee, on March 13. An AMBER Alert was issued across the state of Tennessee the following day, and Cummins was added to the TBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list on March 17.


PHOTOS: AMBER Alert for Elizabeth Thomas


The former teacher is charged with aggravated kidnapping in the AMBER Alert case and also faces one count of sexual contact with a minor after he allegedly kissed Thomas at school earlier this year in late January.

“Our Intelligence Analysts and Agents have worked tirelessly since issuing this AMBER Alert to process more than 1,500 leads from all 50 states,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “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. We’re also grateful for the public’s support and vigilance throughout this search effort.”

As of 1 p.m. Thursday, Cummins remained in the custody of the Siskiyou County jail where he’s being held without bond, awaiting extradition to Tennessee.

A mug shot was not immediately released.

News 2 spoke with one of Thomas’ sisters early Thursday afternoon. Kat Bozeman said the Federal Bureau of Investigation told them Thomas was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. The TBI also reportedly said Thomas appears to be healthy and safe.

Bozeman also told News 2 the family is absolutely elated she was found, and federal agents said it would be about a day before they can see the 15-year-old again.

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