How two Californians helped capture Tennessee's most wanted man,
The search for a missing 15-year-old Tennessee girl ended Thursday after she was located in northern California, authorities said. Ayrika Whitney/USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
Law enforcement officials hold a press conference following the arrest of Tad Cummins, who disappeared with 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas in March. Ayrika Whitney / The Tennessean
With news the Elizabeth Thomas was found safe and Tad Cummins is in custody, the city of Columbia, Tennessee is celebrating. Shelley Mays/The USA TODAY NETWORK–Tennessee
Nashville-based FBI agent Matt Espenshade talks at a press conference at TBI headquarters about the arrest of Tad Cummins, the former high school teacher who abducted 15-year-old former student Elizabeth Thomas. Ayrika Whitney / The Tennessean
Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee discusses possible charges that Tad Cummins could face in the abduction of 15-year-old Tennessee girl Elizabeth Thomas during a press conference at TBI headquarters. Ayrika Whitney / The Tennessean
The attorney for the family of Missing Tennessee teenager Elizabeth Thomas addressed the media hours after she was found safe in California with Tad Cummins Melanie Balakit/The USA TODAY NETWORK–Tennessee
NASHVILLE — 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 Wednesday night.
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.
“My caretaker was doing some rock lifting and agreed to give him so 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.
The caretaker and neighbor hatched a plan to get Cummins to stay in the cabin for the 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.
About six hours later and 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 five-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.”
Follow Natalie Neysa Alund on Twitter: @nataliealund
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