The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(CULLEOKA, Tenn.) — The 15-year-old Tennessee girl who was allegedly kidnapped by her former teacher has been reunited with her family and friends, the family’s attorney said in a statement.
Elizabeth Thomas returned to Tennessee on Friday and is currently in a “safe location with family and friends where she is comfortable and resting,” said Jason Whatley, who is representing the Thomas family.
The teen was transported home on an aircraft owned by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The agency sent the plane to northern California after Elizabeth was found on Thursday, along with her 50-year-old former teacher, in a remote cabin in Cecilville, a rural, isolated area near the California-Oregon border that has little to no cell service, authorities said.
Mental health experts specializing in trauma are evaluating and treating Elizabeth, Whatley said.
“There is no doubt that she has suffered severe emotional trauma and that her process of recovery is only just beginning,” Whatley said. “The family is extremely grateful for the thoughts and prayers of the nation and asks sincerely for those continued prayers as Elizabeth becomes able to process the last 39 days.”
Whatley said that after meeting the teen for the first time, he was “taken aback at who she is.”
“Elizabeth is a little child,” Whatley said. “She could easily pass for 12. The primary photo used and reprinted so many times by law enforcement, the media, and even our office, is inaccurate. She is a little girl in every sense of the word.”
Whatley continued, “This was the abduction of an impressionable, little child.”
Tad Cummins surrendered to police Thursday morning without incident as he exited the cabin, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department. He faces charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, said Lawrence County Attorney General Brent Cooper.
The U.S. State Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee has also filed a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines with the intent of having criminal sexual intercourse against Cummins, according to U.S. attorney Jack Smith. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Cummins also faces charges in Siskiyou County for kidnapping and possession of stolen property, according to the sheriff’s department. He was expected to be arraigned in California on Friday, but the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department said he was taken into FBI custody and will likely be brought back to Tennessee. The federal warrant provided by the FBI superseded any local charges filed in Tennessee and California.
Elizabeth had been missing since March 13 when she was allegedly kidnapped by Cummins, who had been added to Tennessee’s Top 10 Most Wanted list.
After Elizabeth was found, she 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.
The family is asking for privacy at this time, Whatley said.
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