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Father of Tenn. Amber Alert victim opens up about daughter’s rescue, return home

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WKRN) – The same day his daughter’s alleged kidnapper appeared in court for the first time and he also filed for divorce from his wife, Anthony Thomas opened up to WISH-TV’s sister station WKRN about everything he and his family been through.

His 15-year-old daughter Elizabeth was rescued last Thursday after 38 days on the run with her former teacher Tad Cummins, who is facing a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of having criminal sexual intercourse.

“The calls and text messages started coming in so fast,” Anthony Thomas said of the day Elizabeth was found. “It just overloaded my phone. The sheriff called me, the detective called me, my attorney started calling me, relatives were calling me…”

He said he was able to make contact and see Elizabeth through the TBI.

“They let us go two-by-two to speak to her and stand at a distance at first because she’d been through a lot,” the father said, adding, “I had to keep looking to make sure it was her.”

Thomas said he was so overwhelmed by the moment he hardly remembers what was said.

“It was more important to have her back. I was so overwhelmed. Later on, when I hugged her, I just went into tears. She put her hand over my shoulder and patted my back and said, ‘It’s okay,’” he recalled.

Thomas said she has lost a lot of weight. He also noted that she’s a bit more “edgy” since she was rescued by northern California authorities.

“She used to be more outgoing, much more exuberant, and now she can’t really take a lot of stimulus right now,” he explained.

The father said he’s been able to see her several times since then, saying she’s relaxing little by little but “you can still tell she’s very sensitive to too much going on.”

“It’s going to be that way for a while probably from what she’s been through,” he said, noting that she’ll be getting counseling.

“The people who are working with her are some of the best in their field, so I’m confident that they’re going to formulate a treatment plan which will work,” Thomas explained.

He said they’re going to give her space and try to keep things very calm for her, make sure she has what she needs to adjust to life back home.

Thomas also said they haven’t spoken about her experiences while she was gone, saying, “We haven’t gotten to that yet.”

“And I’m not going to ask her. She’ll tell me when she’s ready,” the father added.

Since day one, the family has said they care about Elizabeth’s well-being above all else; they haven’t been concerned with Cummins and what might happen with him.

Thomas reiterated that thought and added, “Tad Cummins will get his day.”

“He probably, whatever he gets will probably never be enough for some of us, but right now I’ve had so many days of what seemed like darkness, and I’m just ready for some happiness now, and so I try not to think about Tad Cummins,” he said.

Thomas continued, “I would like justice. I don’t think he should ever be around kids again.”

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