Thomas, 15, was allegedly abducted by Tad Cummins, her 50-year-old former teacher at the Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tennessee, on March 13. Since then, the pair had been the subject of an ongoing AMBER Alert.
On Wednesday night, officials got a tip that they had been living in a cabin in Cecilville, California, for a week and a half, authorities announced at a Thursday afternoon news conference. Early Thursday morning, authorities recovered Thomas safely and arrested Cummins on multiple state and federal charges.
Brent Cooper, the Maury County district attorney, said Thomas is “apparently healthy and unharmed. Our main concern is how she is emotionally and mentally.”
Thomas will soon head home to Tennessee on an aircraft provided by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the agency’s director, Mark Gwyn, announced Thursday.
Cooper said authorities’ primary focus is Thomas’ well-being.
“Immediately as soon as we get her back, we don’t want to disrupt her life any more than we have to,” he said.
“We want her to re-acquaint herself with her family and friends,” he continued. “But as soon as she is ready to get help, we will offer it.”
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Prior to his capture, a warrant had been issued for Cummins’ arrest on charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. The latter charge stems from an alleged January incident in which Cummins was allegedly caught kissing Thomas on school grounds.
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Jack Smith, the acting United States attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said that Cummins also faces federal charges.
When asked if Thomas was assisting Cummins in his escape from authorities, he said, “At the end of the day, she is 15 years old. She is a young girl with a grown man who is 50 years old. He needs to be held accountable.”
Gwyn said the intense media coverage of the alleged kidnapping played an important role in the teen’s recovery.
“We mobilized a nation during these six weeks and when you do that, something good is going to happen. because you can’t hide when you have that many millions of people looking for you,” Gwyn said.