Miss­ing 15-year-old girl found with teacher ac­cused of kid­nap­ping her

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY SHEILA BURKE

A 15-year-old Ten­nessee girl was res­cued near a cabin in a re­mote part of north­ern Cal­i­for­nia on Thurs­day, more than a month af­ter her 50-year-old teacher kid­napped her and set off a na­tion­wide man­hunt, au­thor­i­ties said.

Health sciences teacher Tad Cum­mins sur­ren­dered to sher­iff’s deputies with­out in­ci­dent in Ce­cil-ville, Cal­i­for­nia, hours af­ter they had found his ve­hi­cle in the area, the Ten­nessee Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion said. The girl was ap­par­ently healthy and un­harmed, and au­thor­i­ties said their main con­cern was her emo­tional and men­tal state.

“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.

Mr. Cum­mins faces a fed­eral charge of tak­ing a mi­nor across state lines to have sex, as well as state charges of ag­gra­vated kid­nap­ping and sex­ual con­tact with a mi­nor.

Au­thor­i­ties re­ceived a tip late Wed­nes­day that the pair may have taken up res­i­dence, per­haps for more than a week, in the woods in Ce­cil-ville, where cell­phone cov­er­age is lim­ited, bureau spokesman Josh Devine said.

Au­thor­i­ties ear­lier had said the ar­rest hap­pened at a com­mune, but later clar­i­fied that it oc­curred in a very re­mote area, where the ter­rain was dif­fi­cult to tra­verse and snow was still on the ground in some places.

The pair’s dis­ap­pear­ance March 13 came af­ter Mr. 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.”

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 girl. At­tor­ney Ja­son What­ley has said the school sys­tem must have not be­lieved the stu­dent’s re­port.

The school’s in­ves­tiga­tive files provided to The As­so­ci­ated Press by the at­tor­ney show that both Mr. Cum­mins and the girl de­nied kiss­ing. The teacher, how­ever, ac­knowl­edged that the girl was “a re­ally good friend and she does leave her other classes to come see him when she needs some­one to calm her down,” ac­cord­ing to a school re­port dated Jan. 30.

The re­port rec­om­mended that the girl be taken out of Mr. Cum­mins’ class and that he be rep­ri­manded to up­hold his pro­fes­sional re­spon­si­bil­ity. The re­port also rec­om­mended that the administration mon­i­tor Mr. Cum­mins’ class­room to make sure stu­dents weren’t there when they weren’t sup­posed to be.

The teacher later would be rep­ri­manded on Feb. 3 by school Prin­ci­pal Penny Love af­ter the girl was seen in Mr. Cum­mins class­room for a little more than half an hour that day. In her let­ter, Ms. Love said the girl be­ing in his class­room was a vi­o­la­tion of the prin­ci­pal’s or­der to him.

The school sys­tem didn’t sus­pend Mr. 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.

The Ten­nessee Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion said it worked tire­lessly for the past five weeks, look­ing into more than 1,500 leads from all 50 states.

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