Elizabeth Thomas, a missing 15-year-old Tennessee girl who was found with a former teacher in a remote corner of Northern California on Thursday will return home Friday, her family said in a television interview.
Speaking on ABC News’ Good Morning America program Friday morning from Tennessee, Anthony Thomas, the girl’s father, said he was looking forward to seeing Elizabeth later in the day when officials fly her back.
Sheriff deputies in Siskiyou County on Thursday rescued Thomas and arrested Tad Cummins, 50, a former teacher at her school in Maury County, Tennessee, from a cabin near Yreka, California, about 60 miles (100 km) south of the Oregon border.
The two became the subject of a nationwide search after he apparently lured the girl into his car outside a restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee, about 45 miles south of Nashville.
During the television interview on Friday, Elizabeth’s sister, identified as Kat Bozeman, said she did not believe that Elizabeth had gone willingly with Cummins. Asked directly whether he thought Elizabeth had been “brainwashed” by Cummins, Anthony Thomas said, “Yes.”
He said the family planned to offer Elizabeth therapy, and understood that she would need time to recover.
Cummins, whose wife filed for divorce after he disappeared with Elizabeth, has been fired from his teaching job.
He was apprehended on a fugitive warrant charging him with aggravated kidnapping and unlawful sexual contact with a minor, law enforcement officials said, and was set to be arraigned on Friday in Yreka.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Bernadette Baum)