How a Nashville native helped capture Tennessee's most wanted man – WBIR-TV
Update Friday 4:30 p.m.
Through their attorney, the family of Elizabeth Thomas confirmed she is “in a safe location with family and friends” after arriving back in Tennessee on Friday afternoon.
“She is being evaluated and treated by mental health experts specializing in trauma,” the statement reads. “There is no doubt that she suffered severe emotional trauma and that her process of recovery is only just beginning.”
“The family is extremely grateful for the thoughts and prayers of the nation and asks sincerely for those continued prayers as Elizabeth becomes able to process the last 39 days,” the statement read. “The family asks for privacy as this journey begins.”
Family attorney S. Jason Whatley also added a personal note saying that Elizabeth “is a little child. She could easily pass for 12.”
“She is a little girl in every sense of the word. This was the abduction of an impressionable, little child,” Whatley’s statement said.
Original story – The Tennessean
A northern California man said his property caretaker and a quick-thinking neighbor hatched a plan to keep Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas in their sights after the duo showed up on his property.
Michael “Monk” O’Hare, who said he was out of town that evening, owns property in the small, forested California hamlet of Cecilville, including the 12 by 12-foot wood cabin where he said the pair was found.
About 9:30 p.m Wednesday, the caretaker, Griffin Barry, 29, called O’Hare saying a man came to a nearby saloon and asked for work.
Barry, who is a Middle Tennessee native and has lived in Brentwood and Nashville, said on Thursday that Cummins and Elizabeth showed up Tuesday. He agreed to help them after Cummins told him they had lost everything in a fire in Colorado and needed a place to stay.
Elizabeth gave Barry a different name, but otherwise didn’t talk, Barry said. Cummins did all the talking and said they had been at the Black Bear Ranch commune, but left because they didn’t like it there, according to Barry.
Yesterday, he said, Cummins and Elizabeth helped him fish rocks out of the creek.
“My caretaker was doing some rock lifting and agreed to give him some work,” said O’Hare, 41, who also owns the Salmon River Saloon.
“My neighbor noticed the car didn’t have a license plate and there was a girl in the car that looked really young and never got out,” O’Hare said.
He said the neighbor noticed the man was acting strange and remembered a news article on the internet about the missing girl.
O’Hare said when the neighbor realized it was Cummins and Elizabeth, he alerted the caretaker.
“They were going to try and contain him but thought, ‘Naw, he’s supposed to be armed and dangerous.’” Cummins was on Tennessee’s 10 Most Wanted list. His picture circulated the country after an Amber Alert was issued March 14, and authorities believed he had fled, taking one of his students — Elizabeth — with him.
Cummins and Thomas had been in the cabin for about a week. When the caretaker and neighbor realized who they were, they hatched a plan to get Cummins to stay in the cabin for one more night.
They also called the sheriff.
About 4 a.m. Thursday, O’Hare said, the sheriff arrived, staked out the perimeter and waited for Cummins.
According to Barry, Siskiyou County deputies enlisted Barry’s help in getting the two out of the cabin by going and waking them up to go back for rocks. He tried honking his horn but it didn’t work, so he hollered for them and eventually they emerged, he said.
More than 2,000 miles away in Tennessee, law enforcement officials announced Cummins was captured.
“We are all stoked she was found,” O’Hare said. “We’re a pretty tight small-knit community that’s hours from the nearest police department. We police our own community with diligence. Neighbors, friends and community members.”
The nearest police station from the cabin, O’Hare said, is two hours away.
He recalled disbelief that the nearly six-week, nationwide manhunt would end at his tiny cabin.
“When my neighbor called and told me, I thought ‘Oh my God, no, we are way too far from (Tennessee),’ ” O’Hare said.
“The area is so remote, a lot of people come out there to hide it’s like a one-horse wilderness town. There’s no cellphone service for about 30 miles outside the town.”
Alayna Shulman and Greg Barnette of the USA Today Network California contributed to this report.
Reach Natalie Neysa Alund at 615-259-8072 and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
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