Authorities say a 15-year-old Tennessee girl who disappeared with her teacher last month has been found safe in California and the teacher has been arrested.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tweeted Thursday that teacher Tad Cummins had been taken into custody. The agency said it would provide more details in a press conference later. According to a family lawyer, the pair was found at a commune.
According to the TBI, the 50-year-old Cummins was a teacher at the teen’s school in Culleoka until he was fired in March in “the wake of an ongoing investigation into alleged inappropriate contact he had with (Elizabeth) Thomas at the school earlier this year.”
The state Bureau of Investigation said in a news release that Cummins “may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom” the teen for some time, “in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her.”
Thomas disappeared from her home near Columbia on March 13. Columbia is about 45 miles (70 kilometers) south of Nashville. Surveillance footage showed Thomas at a Walmart in Oklahoma with Cummins earlier this month.
Court papers filed recently in the girl’s disappearance say she was afraid of the teacher and thought she would face repercussions at school if she resisted him.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to ABC News on Thursday morning that Cummins’ vehicle was found. Siskiyou County is nestled in the northernmost part of California in the Shasta Cascade region along the Oregon border.
Cummins, a 50-year-old married father and grandfather, was wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. An Amber Alert had been issued for Thomas.