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