The pair were also in Berkeley before heading to far northern California. But FBI officials arrived at the sheriff's department Friday morning with a federal warrant to take custody of Cummins, superseding all local charges in Tennessee and possible charges in California.
The Associated Press is not naming the girl or her family members because she is an alleged victim of a sex crime.
He had just been suspended from teaching and police were zeroing in on him, questioning his relationship with the girl. Court documents say he explained he was travelling to Virginia Beach or the D.C. area to clear his head, saying he would be back and urged her not to call police and denying he'd done anything wrong. Whatley speculated that Cummins had planned an escape to the Northwest, referencing the citing of the two at a Walmart in Oklahoma City off Interstate 44, which leads to California. In Tennessee, Cummins is being charged with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor having sexual contact with a minor.
In fact, Cummins and Thomas went west, not east, as investigators would later determine.
Elizabeth Thomas returned to Tennessee on Friday and is now in a "safe location with family and friends where she is comfortable and resting", said Jason Whatley, who is representing the Thomas family. Thomas family attorney Jason Whatley said a special police unit "swooped in" on the cabin with "force".
"After we placed them into protective custody, she was laughing, she was crying".
After the capture, Cummins was charged with one federal count of transportation of a minor across state lines for the goal of criminal sexual intercourse, said Jack Smith, acting U.S. attorney for Middle District of Tennessee.
The California groundskeeper who helped authorities nab a Tennessee teacher on the run with his 15-year-old student first met the pair almost a week ago and spent a full day working alongside the wanted man before recognizing his picture on an Amber Alert flyer.
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But what's next for the former teacher? She did not contact law enforcement.
"I said, 'That's the guy, '" Barry said.
"As a rule, child sex offenders are considered the worst and with the smallest chance of ever recovering and coming around", Portanova said.
After that, the trail appears to have gone cold. The room, the report says, had only one bed. "Leaving a wide-open trail like this with your own name and so forth doesn't really surprise me". Cummins surrendered and girl was found unharmed.
He described her condition as alternating between "stoic" and "emotional", understandable given the circumstances, he said. "The young mind is simply not well developed sufficiently to deal with the things that adults have to deal with". She said they can all finally sleep again.
"We love you, and we can't wait to see you, and it's wonderful, we have so many words, we are so excited", she said.
The teen had been missing since she was allegedly kidnapped on March 13 by Cummins, who had been added to Tennessee's Top 10 Most Wanted list. It's located more than two hours away from the nearest town of Yreka, via a windy mountain road, and almost 2,500 miles away from Elizabeth's home in Tennessee.
The teacher would later be reprimanded February 3 by school principal Penny Love after the girl was seen in Cummins' classroom for a little more than half an hour that day. "He needs to be held accountable for kidnapping this girl".
After Thomas' father filed a missing-child report and told investigators he feared his daughter was with Cummins, detectives subpoenaed Cummins' financial records and learned that Cummins had taken out a $4,500 loan against his vehicle.