A 15-year-old Tennessee girl who disappeared with her teacher more than a month ago was found safe at a commune in California and the teacher was arrested, authorities said Thursday.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said 50-year-old Tad Cummins surrendered without incident in Cecilville, which is in northern California. Authorities said they found Cummins’ Nissan Rogue and later located the pair. The agency said it planned a news conference for 4 p.m. to release more details.
The pair’s disappearance March 13 came after Cummins was investigated by the school system when another student reported seeing the then-married teacher kiss the girl at the Culleoka Unit School. Culleoka is a community about 60 miles south of Nashville near the Alabama state line.
“We’re so happy that California police worked quickly and were able to find them and get her safe,” one of the girl’s sisters told The Tennessean.
“I believe the FBI are going to make sure she’s healthy before she comes home,” she said. “We’ll make sure she’ll get what therapy she needs and that she’s safe, that she knows she’s safe.”
Police had previously issued an Amber alert for the girl and said they had warrants charging the health sciences teacher with sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping. The Associated Press is not naming the girl or her family members because she is an alleged victim of a sex crime.
Court papers filed recently in the girl’s disappearance said she was afraid of the teacher and thought she would face repercussions at school if she resisted him.
A lawyer for the girl’s family has said the teacher was allowed to continue working at the school for two weeks after he was reported kissing the student. Attorney Jason Whatley has said the school system must have not believed the student’s report.
The school system didn’t suspend Cummins until Feb. 6. He was fired about a month later, a day after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Amber Alert about the teen.