A former Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping his teenage student told Northern California authorities that he was relieved the five-week, nationwide search for him and the girl had come to an end, officials said.
Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Gilley, speaking at a news conference on Thursday, said that Tad Cummins told him, “I’m glad this is over,” as he was being arrested in Cecilville, a remote, unincorporated mountain community where Cummins is said to have hidden in a small cabin for several days with 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas.
Cummins, 50, was arrested Thursday morning. Elizabeth, who was found safe at the cabin, had been missing since March 13. The search for the pair spawned Amber alerts in Tennessee and Alabama, a sighting in Oklahoma City and more than 1,500 tips before they were found this week in Siskiyou County, which borders Oregon.
Cummins was scheduled to be arraigned in Siskiyou County on Friday morning, but the arraignment was canceled after federal authorities took him into their custody to transport him to Sacramento, where he’ll be arraigned on a federal charge, the Redding Record Searchlight reported.
Jack Smith, the acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said Thursday that his office filed a federal charge of transporting a minor across state lines for criminal sexual intercourse. The charge, he said, carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said Thursday that Cummins appeared to have made an arrangement with someone connected to the property where the Cecilville cabin was in exchange for gas and food.
The cabin, authorities said, was a small, one-room building, and Cummins and Elizabeth appeared to have been sleeping on a foam mattress on the ground, the Siskiyou Daily News reported. They did not have any apparatus for cooking or preparing food.
Lopey said that at the time of the arrest, Elizabeth “was emotional at times, sometimes stoic. It just kind of shifted back and forth.”
Elizabeth was in protective federal care and would be returned home on a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation aircraft, authorities said.
The man who alerted authorities to the pair’s whereabouts was 29-year-old Griffin Barry, the caretaker of the property on which the cabin was located, according to the Record Searchlight. Barry said Cummins used a fake name and said they had lost everything in a fire in Colorado and needed a place to stay.
Barry, a Tennessee native, recognized Cummins’ photo from a news story and called 911 Wednesday night, according to the Record Spotlight. Siskiyou County deputies formed a perimeter around the 12-by-12-foot cabin for several hours that night before drawing Cummins out the next morning to arrest him.
Barry told “Good Morning America” that he became suspicious because “the girl wasn’t really looking at me.”
“He was always dominating the conversation. You know, that kind of clues people in. … I had a photo of him that was the Amber Alert, and I was like, that’s definitely the guy.”
Michael “Monk” O’Hare, who owns the property, told The Tennessean he was out of town the night Barry contacted authorities and that he was shocked when Barry and a neighbor told him they thought it was Cummins in the cabin.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, no, we are way too far from [Tennessee],’” O’Hare told the Tennessean.
“The area is so remote, a lot of people come out there to hide. It’s like a one-horse wilderness town. There’s no cellphone service for about 30 miles outside the town.”