PlayABC NewsWATCH Man describes how he identified missing Tenn. teacher and student
The tiny cabin where authorities found former Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins and his 15-year-old student, Elizabeth Thomas, is nestled in the woods in a remote, mountainous area of inland, northernmost California near the Oregon border.
ABC News traveled to Cecilville and was able to catch a glimpse of the isolated cabin where the pair stayed, although much of the area is cordoned off for the ongoing investigation.
The cabin is situated next to another one that looks identical. Both structures are very small and newly built, according to locals, with fresh wood and metal roofs. ABC News learned the cabins have no electricity or running water.
ABC News also learned that a local man, who goes by the name “Monk,” is paying for the development in the area, including the cabins, which are off a side road near a river .
The cabins are located some 200 yards away from a not-fully running “saloon,” which houses a working phone, indoor plumbing and electricity for the rural property. ABC News was told that Monk also has a working phone in his personal cabin.
The saloon in Cecilville has a gas pump and a small fridge with water and energy drinks for purchase using the honor system — a cash box kept inside the fridge.
A few other cabins and run-down homes sparsely scatter the rural property.
Cecilville is a remote area with little to no cell phone service in Siskiyou County. It’s located more than two hours away from the nearest town of Yreka, via a windy mountain road, and nearly 2,500 miles away from Elizabeth’s home in Tennessee.
Local resident Griffin Barry said in an interview Friday with ABC News’ “Good Morning America” that he came across Cummins and Elizabeth at the gas station earlier this week. Cummins told Barry their names were John and Joanna and that the teen was 24. Cummins said they were running out of gas, food and money and they needed a place to stay, Barry told “GMA.”
Barry said he paid to fuel up their car, gave them an extra $40 in cash and set them up in the cabin on the property. Cummins and Elizabeth stayed there for two nights, Barry told “GMA.”
During that time, Barry said, he didn’t talk to the pair much, but he noticed Cummins tried to “keep her away” and “was always dominating the conversation.”
After picking up on these “clues” and realizing who they were, Barry said he immediately called 911.
KDRVTennessee teen Elizabeth Thomas and her former teacher, Tad Cummins, were were found in one of these two cabins pictured in rural Siskiyou County, California, on April 20, 2017.
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Authorities from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department confirmed their location early Thursday morning. Deputies set up a perimeter around the cabin and elected to wait until daylight to arrest Cummins as he exited the residence, according to the sheriff’s department.
When Cummins exited the cabin around 9:30 a.m. local time, he surrendered without incident and was taken into custody. Cummins told deputies he was armed but not dangerous and said he would fully cooperate. Two loaded handguns were found inside the cabin, according to the sheriff’s department.
Cummins, 50, is charged with aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, according to Brent Cooper, the district attorney general for Giles, Lawrence, Maury and Wayne counties in Tennessee.
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 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 California’s Siskiyou County for kidnapping and possession of stolen property, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department. Those charges are pending review by Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus.
Cummins was in the custody of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department without bond on Thursday while he awaited extradition to Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department told ABC News that Cummins would be arraigned today.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department initially told ABC News that Cummins was expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon. 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. Cummins is now in the custody of the FBI and will likely be brought back to Tennessee.
Elizabeth was safely recovered by law enforcement officers and is expected to be reunited with her family Friday.
ABC News’ Elisabeth Bognar, William Gretsky, Michael Edison Hayden, Katie Kindelan, Dee Morales, Lauren Putrino, Glenn Ruppel, Emily Shapiro, Jason Volack, Nery Ynclan and Robert Zepeda contributed to this report.