US teen rescued from teacher after month on the run
A 15-year-old US girl has been rescued near a cabin in a remote part of northern California, more than a month after her 50-year-old teacher kidnapped her and set off a nationwide manhunt.
Tad Cummins, a former Tennessee high school health teacher accused of abducting 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas, was arrested.
"We couldn't be happier to tell you she will soon be on her way back home to Tennessee," Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn said.
Cummins surrendered to sheriff's deputies without incident in Cecilville, California, hours after they had set up surveillance on his vehicle in the area, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.
Thomas was apparently healthy and unharmed, and authorities said their main concern was her emotional and mental state.
Authorities received a tip that the pair may have taken up residence in the woods in Siskiyou County, perhaps for more than a week, bureau spokesman Josh DeVine said.
The remote, mountainous area has limited cellphone service and the terrain is difficult to traverse.
Snow was still on the ground in some places.
Cummins and Thomas had been missing since March 13, when an Amber Alert was issued.
He was Thomas's high school teacher at Culleoka Unit School in Tennessee.
"Investigative efforts have revealed a troubling pattern of behaviour by Tad Cummins, suggesting the 50-year-old may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom this vulnerable young girl for some time in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her," the agency said in its alert.
"Having now been on the run for more than five days, Cummins may have taken her, frankly, anywhere," the agency said.
On March 13, video surveillance at a Columbia gas station showed Cummins filling up his silver Nissan Rogue.
A short time later, investigators say, he drove to Shoney's restaurant, where Thomas had been dropped off by a friend and was waiting.
Investigators think he manipulated her into leaving with him, but he wasn't authorised to take a minor, and she wasn't old enough to consent.
Then, nothing. After their disappearance, investigators said they had received hundreds of tips from 24 states, but not enough information to tighten the dragnet despite a multi-state manhunt and Cummins' addition to Tennessee's most wanted list.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Cummins may be keeping Thomas out of sight of authorities, possibly sleeping in his car or in a rural community.
Last month, the agency released new images of Cummins in an effort to keep the case in the spotlight.
The pictures were from a week before Cummins and Thomas disappeared, and show him wearing a camouflage cap and pushing a shopping cart at a store.