California cabin caretaker helped police bust Tad Cummins

by 21/04/2017 09:29:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Griffin Barry helped police arrest Tad Cummins, 50, who had been on the run for more than a month after kidnapping former student Elizabeth Thomas, 15
  • The 29-year-old man is originally from Tennessee but now works as a cabin caretaker in northern California 
  • He says that Cummins and the girl, who were going by the names John and Joanna, came through the area two weeks ago looking for a commune 
  • They came back on Tuesday, when the commune turned them down  
  • Barry says he let the two stay in one of his unfinished cabins in exchange for work 
  • Wednesday night, a neighbor showed Barry a picture of the missing couple and he immediately recognized them 
  • He then called 911 and police arrested Cummins in a raid the next morning 
  • Criminal complaint released Friday shows Cummins refilled his Cialis prescription before leaving town  

By Ashley Collman For Dailymail.com

Published: 13:33 BST, 21 April 2017 | Updated: 14:29 BST, 21 April 2017

A northern California caretaker is speaking out to detail how he helped police arrest the Tennessee teacher who had been on the run for more than a month with his 15-year-old student. 

Tad Cummins, 50, was taken into custody Thursday morning by a SWAT team who surrounded the unfinished cabin in Cecilville, California where he was staying with missing teen Elizabeth Thomas.

Police got a tip about Cummins' whereabouts the previous night from the caretaker of the cabin, 29-year-old Griffin Barry. 

Barry, who is originally from Nashville, said he let the couple stay in the cabin in exchange for work and realized who the two were when a neighbor showed him a picture of Thomas' missing person poster. 

That's when it all came together for Barry and he called to tip off police. Looking back, he said there was something suspicious about the couple. 

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Griffin Barry, 29 (pictured), helped police arrest Tad Cummins, the 50-year-old Tennessee teacher who had been on the run for more than a month with one of his 15-year-old students 
Griffin Barry, 29 (pictured), helped police arrest Tad Cummins, the 50-year-old Tennessee teacher who had been on the run for more than a month with one of his 15-year-old students 

Griffin Barry, 29 (pictured), helped police arrest Tad Cummins, the 50-year-old Tennessee teacher who had been on the run for more than a month with one of his 15-year-old students 

Cummins continued to drive his Nissan Rogue the whole time, but removed the license plates
Cummins continued to drive his Nissan Rogue the whole time, but removed the license plates

Cummins continued to drive his Nissan Rogue the whole time, but removed the license plates

'She spoke very few words and he would try and like, talk for her a lot,' Barry told KRCR. 'He was likely clearly keeping her separate.' 

Barry says the two first came through the area two weeks ago, looking for the Black Bear Ranch Commune, and were going by the names John and Joanna. 

The couple, claiming to be 38 and 24 years old, had run out of gas and Cummins told a sad story about how they lost all of their possessions in a house fire in Colorado and didn't have any money left.

So Barry decided to be a Good Samaritan, and gave Cummins money, gas and directions to the commune.  

'I put some gas in his car and gave him $40 dollars and said if it doesn’t work come back I’ll feed you you, know what I mean?' Barry, 29, told WKRN. 

Cummins and Thomas did in fact make it to the commune, but the members there sensed something was off with the two and decided against letting them into the group. 

Ted Cummins
Ted Cummins
Elizabeth Thomas
Elizabeth Thomas

Cummins (left) said he was 'glad' that his month-and-a-half flight from justice was over when he was arrested for allegedly kidnapping Elizabeth Thomas (right) Thursday

Found: The pair were found in one of these cabins in a remote section of northern California after the shack's caretaker recognized Cummins' car. He called police on Wednesday
Found: The pair were found in one of these cabins in a remote section of northern California after the shack's caretaker recognized Cummins' car. He called police on Wednesday

Found: The pair were found in one of these cabins in a remote section of northern California after the shack's caretaker recognized Cummins' car. He called police on Wednesday

Barry let the couple stay in one of the unfinished cabins after they were turned down from a commune in the area 
Barry let the couple stay in one of the unfinished cabins after they were turned down from a commune in the area 

Barry let the couple stay in one of the unfinished cabins after they were turned down from a commune in the area 

'I feel a little funny because there were all kinds of indications that there was something a little funny going on never occurred to me that she was 15 year old, they said she was 22, I thought…yeah,' member Peter LaughingWolf said.

LaughingWolf said that after telling Cummins that they wouldn't be a good fit, he stormed off with Thomas. 

'What really should have been a clue that something was wrong was that he got so angry when that was shared with them,' added LaughingWolf. 

After getting kicked out of the cult, Cummins and Thomas returned to Cecilville on Tuesday, and Barry offered to let them sleep in one of his unfinished cabins in exchange for work. 

'In my head I'm thinking he had a house fire and lost everything,' Barry said. 'I came out here on a prayer and people helped me out and got me on my feet and hopefully I can pass it on.'

Fled: The pair fled 2,500 miles over the course of their journey, cops said. Police said they didn't know if Thomas was willing to go with Cummins, but that it didn't matter, legally
Fled: The pair fled 2,500 miles over the course of their journey, cops said. Police said they didn't know if Thomas was willing to go with Cummins, but that it didn't matter, legally

Fled: The pair fled 2,500 miles over the course of their journey, cops said. Police said they didn't know if Thomas was willing to go with Cummins, but that it didn't matter, legally

Barry, right, appeared on Good Morning America Friday morning to detail how he helped police nab Cummins 
Barry, right, appeared on Good Morning America Friday morning to detail how he helped police nab Cummins 

Barry, right, appeared on Good Morning America Friday morning to detail how he helped police nab Cummins 

THE PAIR'S FLIGHT FROM JUSTICE

January 23: Tad Cummins is spotted kissing Elizabeth Thomas, his student at Culleoka High School, by another student. He denies the claim, saying that they are friends; she is taken out of his classes

February 3: Cummins is reprimanded by the school principal after Elizabeth is found to have entered his classroom for around 30 minues

February 6: Cummins is suspended 

c. March 9: He takes out a $4,500 loan on his car

March 12: Cummins buys hair dye from Walmart in Columbia, TN

March 13, 7:45am: Thomas is dropped off at Shoney's in Columbia by a friend

March 13, 8am: Cummins is seen pumping gas in Columbia

March 13, noon: Cummins and Elizabeth are seen together in Decatur, AL, around  70 miles from Columbia. He is fired from his job this same day

March 15: Cummins and Thomas are seen buying food at a Walmart. They are sporting dyed hair. This is their last sighting for more than a month

March 30: Tad Cummins' wife of 31 years, Jill, files for divorce

April 19: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is contacted by caretaker Griffin Barry, who says the paid is staying on his property in Cecilville, California

April 20:  Police converge on the remote cabin, arrest Cummins and confirm that Elizabeth is safe

Barry said he rarely interacted with Thomas during the couple's 36-hour stay at the property. 

'He would talk for her a lot and kept her separate, you know,' Barry told WBIR. 'And a couple of times he always kept her in the car and he would be like 'she's asleep,' you know, and I'm like okay. I was kind of telling some people , you know, she never really looks at me and she's always talking for her. I was like, whatever, they're on hard times or something."

It wasn't until Wednesday night that he finally recognized Cummins and the girl, when a neighbor showed him a missing persons picture. 

'Someone was showing me a picture, I was telling them you know and said 'That's the guy,"' he said. 'So we called 911 last night and we were calling that Tennessee Bureau of Investigation line or whatever so I guess the first sheriff got out here at about 2am.'

The neighbor reportedly got suspicious about the couple's car, a silver Nissan Rogue. It was the same car the couple went missing in, and the plate's had been removed. 

After using the car's vehicle identification number to confirm it belonged to the ex-teacher, SWAT teams formed a perimeter around the cabin and waited for Cummins to walk out around 4am.

After a while, they brought in Barry to help speed up the process. 

'I was driving by trying to flush him out. [Sheriff's deputies] were like, "honk the horn!"' Barry said. 'I'm glad I got to help.'

As Cummins was taken into custody, he reportedly remarked 'I'm glad this is over'. 

Thomas was 'healthy' and 'unharmed' according to police, and had a mixed emotional reaction.

'It was an intense situation,' Lt Behr Tharsing, of the Siskiyou County Police, told Good Morning America on Friday. 'She was laughing, she was crying, she was kind of an emotional rollercoaster as you can imagine.'

Two loaded handguns were found in the cabin.

Last sighting: The pair's last sighting before the arrest was at an Oklahoma Walmart on March 15 (pictured). They had died their hair to help evade capture
Last sighting: The pair's last sighting before the arrest was at an Oklahoma Walmart on March 15 (pictured). They had died their hair to help evade capture

Last sighting: The pair's last sighting before the arrest was at an Oklahoma Walmart on March 15 (pictured). They had died their hair to help evade capture

Jason Whately, the attorney representing the Thomas family, believes that the pair had intended to keep driving northwest. Maps were found in Cummins' car for both San Francisco and Baltimore. 

Both remain in Siskiyou County as of Friday morning. After an interview with police, Thomas is expected to be sent home to her family in Tennessee Friday morning. Her father, Anthony, told Good Morning America on Friday that the family still hasn't been able to speak to Elizabeth yet. 

Meanwhile, Cummins will appear in court for the first time at 10am Pacific Standard Time. 

He has been charged with aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor in Lawrence County, Tennessee. The aggravated kidnapping charge carries an eight to 12 year sentence. 

In Siskiyou County, California, where the cabin is located, he may be charged with kidnapping and possession of stolen property, pending review by the county's district attorney.

And the US 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.

A criminal complaint released Friday has also revealed new details about Cummins. 

It says that before leaving town, he refilled his Cialis prescription - a drug that treats erectile dysfunction. He also picked up KY Jelly, a personal lubricant, during a stop at Walmart in Oklahoma with Thomas.  

Thomas' family appeared on Good Morning America on Friday, saying they had not yet been able to talk to her. Pictured bottom left is Elizabeth's father Anthony 
Thomas' family appeared on Good Morning America on Friday, saying they had not yet been able to talk to her. Pictured bottom left is Elizabeth's father Anthony 

Thomas' family appeared on Good Morning America on Friday, saying they had not yet been able to talk to her. Pictured bottom left is Elizabeth's father Anthony 

That charge alone has a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in prison.

It could take several weeks for Cummins to be extradited to Tennessee, said US attorney Jack Smith.

Cummins, 50, who is married and has two daughters and grandchildren, allegedly abducted his former student on March 13 from her home near Columbia, Tennessee.

The two, who were thought to be in a sexual relationship, were last spotted two days later.

Their last confirmed sighting prior to the arrest was at a Walmart in Oklahoma, 700 miles away from home, after they had both dyed their hair.

Court papers filed recently in the girl's disappearance say she was afraid of the teacher and thought she would face repercussions at school if she resisted him.

When asked at a press conference if she had gone willingly, Gwyn said the question 'didn't matter'.

'At the end of the day she's 15 years old, she's 15 years old, she's a young girl that's with a grown man that's 50 years old.

'He needs to be held accountable for kidnapping this girl,' he said.

Speaking to DailyMail.com Thursday, Elizabeth’s relieved mother said: 'All I want to do now is hug and kiss her.'

Kimberly Thomas, 48, feared she might never see the 15-year-old girl again after she vanished more than five weeks ago with her married teacher.

'It's only been a little over a month but to us it has felt like forever,' Thomas told DailyMail.com.

'I just lost my mother, she died of an aneurysm. She never had high blood pressure before but this was terribly stressful for her. She never got to hear her granddaughter was OK.

'As for Mr Cummins, I don't even want to think about him right now. All I can think about is my daughter and the fact she is safe.' 

Elizabeth lived with her father, Anthony Thomas, because Mrs Thomas has been prevented from having contact with her because of an ongoing abuse case that is yet to go to court.

However, the mother-of-ten, who only learned her daughter had been found from a news bulletin, says she will ask her attorney to see if they can get special permission to speak.

'The justice system has been very unfair to me throughout this ordeal. Nobody has told me anything. This is my daughter we are talking about,' she added.

Speaking to reporters last month, Jill Cummins, wife of the disgraced teacher, said that she had been close to Thomas before the pair ran away.

'She would come to him with her problems,' Jill said, adding that she and her husband - whom she is now divorcing - would sometimes take her to church.

'In fact, I called her our third daughter sometimes,' Jill said.

 

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