Vehicle Found in Connection to Missing TN Girl

Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins has been arrested and 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas has been found safe in northern California, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tweeted Thursday.

Investigators followed that tip - one of about 1,500 tips reported to law enforcement in this case - to a "very remote, isolated area with no or limited cellphone service" in Siskiyou County, the spokesman said.

Authorities issued an Amber Alert for Thomas of Columbia, Tenn. after her parents reported her missing March 13.

The arrest comes after authorities in Siskiyou County, Calfornia confirmed to WKRN that Cummins' vehicle was found there late Wednesday night.

The break came when someone encountered Cummins in Siskiyou County, more than 2,000 miles from Culleoka, and called the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tip line.

Earlier, authorities in California said the pair were found at a commune, but those reports were incorrect.

Family lawyer Jason Whatley told reporters outside court that their ultimate goal was "nothing less than just to get Elizabeth back home safely in Tennessee".

The school's investigative files provided to The Associated Press by the attorney show that both Cummins and the girl denied kissing. Deputies say Thomas appeared to be in good health and Cummins was cooperative at the scene.

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He also faces charges in California for alleged possession of stolen property and kidnapping, according to ABC News.

The teacher would later be reprimanded on February 3 by school principal Penny Love after the girl was seen in Cummins classroom for a little more than half an hour that day.

"The student stated that he/she and another student went to Cummins' classroom after school and confronted him about his relationship with VICTIM", the affidavit says. As daylight broke, Cummins was taken into custody, Devine said. Elizabeth 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. They were captured on surveillance two days later at a Walmart in Oklahoma City but weren't been seen since.

The affidavit later goes on to explain that Thomas explained that she had a verbal exchange with another teacher about using the bathroom and was upset over the issue and went to discuss it with Cummins.

He recalled disbelief that the almost six-week, nationwide manhunt would end at his tiny cabin.

Last month, the teacher's wife of 31 years filed for divorce.

"When something like this happens, a community gets together and feels like this is one of our children", Butt said.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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