Apr 24, 2017
SISKIYOU COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE NEWS UPDATE
April 22, 2017
Link With Missing Happy Camp Man Seems More Likely but Unconfirmed
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) continues searching for a body last seen floating in the Klamath River on April 14th. The SCSO has been searching for a body last seen in the Klamath River at the Indian Creek Access point since Friday, April 14th and no sign of the body has been found. On Friday, April 14, 2017, at about 6:34 p.m. SCSO received a citizen’s report of a possible dead body floating in Indian Creek in the Happy Camp area. A SCSO deputy arrived at the 2nd Avenue Bridge and observed what appeared to be the body of a heavy-set male adult floating in the river in swift-moving water. A search by SCSO and California Highway Patrol (CHP) units failed to locate the body as it entered the Klamath River access point. The Klamath River and other tributaries have been flowing rapidly and are muddy due to recent snow run-off and intermittent rains and water levels are very high.
On Saturday, April 15, 2017, in the early morning hours, a search by SCSO field and specialized units was initiated in the Klamath River area at a point where the body was last seen. A fixed-wing aircraft from the CHP’s Northern Division conducted an aerial search of the area with negative results. The SCSO’s Search and Rescue (SAR) team, SCSO Water Safety Unit, SCSO Dive Team, and other SCSO personnel responded and supported the search effort. On Sunday, April 16th, a CHP helicopter searched the immediate area with negative results. As of Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 7:00 p.m., there has been no sign of the body detected by search personnel. A SCSO boat crew and SAR leader previously searched an area several miles downstream from the Happy Camp area with negative results. Search conditions have been hazardous, the water levels remain high, and the water is moving swiftly along the Klamath River. Muddy water is also adversely affecting search efforts; however, water levels have gone down during this week’s search operation an estimated one foot.
Shortly after the search for the suspected dead body was initiated, relatives of a Happy Camp man reported him missing. At this time, it is unknown for certain if he is the man observed in the water by citizens and law enforcement personnel but he has not been located since his disappearance and it is more likely, but again, not substantiated, that he may be the man observed floating in the river. Mr. Benjamin Arthur Camarena, 42, of Happy Camp, was last seen riding his horse on Indian Creek Road in the Happy Camp area at about the time the body in the river was reported. The horse was later found without its rider, reported to be Mr. Camarena.
On Wednesday, April 19, 2017, SCSO leaders contacted the California Office of Emergency Services (OES) and additional aerial support was obtained from the U.S. Coast Guard, which conducted an overflight of the river from the coast eastward to the Happy Camp area. During the week up to Friday, April 21st, the CHP and California Army National Guard have used air assets to search the Klamath River. Unfortunately, the body was not located. SCSO also coordinated support from the Humboldt, Del Norte County Sheriffs’ Offices, and Yurok and Hoopa public safety officials and they were asked to conduct searches and be on the lookout for the body along the Klamath River traversing their respective jurisdictions. Karuk Tribal authorities in Happy Camp acquired the services of Hoopa and Yurok law enforcement and fire rescue personnel and they responded to Happy Camp on the Wednesday to assist with the search.
They brought watercraft and ground search personnel, which were integrated into the search efforts underway by the SCSO field, water safety, Dive Team, SAR, and Posse personnel. Additionally, another Water Safety Unit and Dive Team crew were dispatched to the Klamath River to conduct additional sweeps of the Klamath River in hopes that the body could be located. SCSO detective units also again responded to Happy Camp to gather information and to interview more people who may know what Mr. Camarena was doing in the hours and moments before his disappearance. SCSO investigators have classified his disappearance suspicious and have not ruled out any investigative conclusions surrounding his absence from the local community. On Friday, April 21st, a SCSO Water Safety boat captain traversed 6.25 miles of the river during an exhaustive search. Karuk, Yurok, and Hoopa Tribal officials and members continued assisting with the search effort. Additional assets will be deployed over the weekend and next week if the body is not found.
According to Sheriff Jon Lopey, “I am again saddened that we have not recovered the body we suspect to be in the Klamath River but we will continue a diligent effort to accomplish this vital mission. It is important that we recover the body we suspect to be in the river as soon as possible. I know family and friends of Mr. Camarena are very concerned and we share those concerns as well. I am grateful that the CHP, SCSO specialized and field units; SCSO Volunteers such and the Posse and SAR, U.S. Coast Guard, California Army National Guard, Karuk, Yurok, and Hoopa Tribal emergency response and volunteers have been willing to assist with this important search operation. A CHP helicopter has also been requested for a search within the next few days and we continue to surge forward with our search efforts. While the fate of Mr. Camarena cannot be confirmed, the investigation is exploring every conceivable reason for his disappearance. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his many family members and friends as this search and investigation continues. Anyone with any information about the suspected dead body or anyone with information about Mr. Camarena’s whereabouts or his activities prior to his disappearance is urged to contact the SCSO’s 24-hour Dispatch Center at (530) 841-2900.”
Apr 21, 2017
PNP comment: There is a video from Good Morning America ABC on the link below. Good work Siskiyou County Sheriff’s department!!! — Editor Liz Bowen
Man who tipped off authorities about missing Tenn. student Elizabeth Thomas describes ‘clues’
By MORGAN WINSOR and KAYNA WHITWORTH
April 21, 2017
The man who tipped off authorities and led them to a former Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping his 15-year-old student said today there were “clues” that made him suspicious of the pair.
Griffin Barry came across Elizabeth Thomas and her alleged abductor, 50-year-old Tad Cummins, at a gas station in far northern California this week.
Cummins told Barry, a caretaker on a property that includes the gas station, that they needed money for gas, food and a place to stay. Cummins said their names were John and Joanna and that the teen was 24, Barry told ABC News today.
Barry said he paid to fuel up their car, gave them an extra $40 in cash and set them up in a nearby cabin on the remote property in Cecilville, a rural area near the Oregon border with little to no cellphone service. Barry is a resident on the same property.
Cummins and Elizabeth stayed inside the tiny cabin for two nights, he said, with no running water or electricity.
During that time, Barry said, he didn’t talk to the pair much but he noticed Cummins tried to “keep her away.”
“The girl wasn’t really looking at me or anything and he was always dominating the conversation. That kind of clues people in,” Barry said today on ABC News’ “Good Morning America.”
“I had a photo of him that was the Amber Alert and I was like, that’s definitely the guy, and then we saw the car as well and it matched up,” he added.
After realizing who they were, Barry said he immediately called 911.
Elizabeth had been missing since Cummins allegedly kidnapped her on March 13. A day after they disappeared, he was fired from his teaching job at Culleoka Unit School in Culleoka, Tennessee, where Elizabeth had been a student in his forensics class.
Cummins was wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. The former teacher was also added to Tennessee’s 10 most wanted list. Meanwhile, an Amber Alert had been issued for Elizabeth.
Authorities arrest Cummins
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) public information officer Josh Devine said they received a call to their tip line about a possible sighting of the duo around 11 p.m. local time Wednesday. The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department in California had received a similar tip, Devine said.
After investigators located a Nissan Rogue, they were able to confirm through its vehicle identification number that it belonged to Cummins. The car was then kept under surveillance for several hours.
Authorities from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department found the pair at the isolated cabin early Thursday morning, nearly 2,500 miles away from their homes in Tennessee. Deputies set up a perimeter around the cabin and elected to wait until the morning to arrest Cummins as he exited the residence, according to the sheriff’s department.
As daylight broke, Cummins surrendered without incident and Elizabeth was safely recovered by law enforcement officers, according to the TBI. Two loaded handguns were found in the cabin, according to the sheriff’s department.
“Our intelligence analysts and agents have worked tirelessly since issuing this AMBER Alert to process more than 1,500 leads from all 50 states,” TBI director Mark Gwyn said in a statement Thursday. “What happened in California this morning, however, proves it only takes one person to lead to a successful end. We are extremely thankful the hard work of all partners in this search has paid off. We’re also grateful for the public’s support and vigilance throughout this search effort.”
Speaking with “GMA” on Friday morning, authorities from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department said it was “an intense situation.”
“After we placed them into protective custody, she was laughing, she was crying. She was kind of an emotional roller coaster, as you can imagine,” Lt. Behr Tharsing said.
Tharsing told “GMA” that Cummins made some “spontaneous statements” after his arrest, telling law enforcement officers he was armed but not dangerous and would fully cooperate. Cummins also told authorities he was “relieved” the incident had come to an end, Tharsing said.
Sheriff Jon Lopey credited Barry for his role in securing the arrest, saying it was a “great partnership” between a citizen and law enforcement.
“We may not have detected Mr. Cummins had he not brought his presence to our attention. He helped us tremendously,” Lopey told “GMA.”
“Griffin definitely was pivotal in this event.”
Authorities had initially said Cummins was arrested at a commune in rural Siskiyou County but later clarified that the arrest occurred at a cabin.
A worker at Black Bear Ranch told ABC News that Cummins and Elizabeth had tried to stay at the commune but were turned away because of “all kinds of indications” that something was off about them. Cummins became angry when they were rejected, the worker said.
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Apr 20, 2017
SISKIYOU COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE REPORT
April 20, 2017
On Wednesday, April 19, 2017, at about 9:00 p.m., the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) received a tip that a vehicle matching the description of Tennessee Kidnap suspect Mr. Tad Cummins, 50, was observed in the Cecilville area of Siskiyou County. Cecilville is a small rural community located in a mountainous area of the county about 68 miles southwest of the county seat, Yreka. According to reports, a male adult and a young female were staying in a cabin off of Eddy Gulch Road in Cecilville. Deputies responded to the scene and verified that the vehicle, a 2015 Nissan Rogue, silver in color, matched the description broadcast nationwide via an Amber Alert dated March 13, 2017. The original broadcast indicated the kidnap suspect; Mr. Cummins was possibly armed with two firearms, which prompted a tactical response by the Department’s Special Response Team (SRT).
The SCSO SRT responded to the scene, established a perimeter around the cabin believed to be occupied by Mr. Cummins and his juvenile female victim and elected to wait until morning to arrest the suspect when he exited the cabin. A citizen who befriended the suspect and victim assisted SRT members at the scene. On Thursday, April 20, 2017, shortly after 9:30 a.m., Mr. Cummins exited the cabin and was taken into custody by SCSO SRT members without incident. The female victim exited the cabin and was walking behind Cummins. She was detained at the scene for her protection and to facilitate further investigation and victim services. Two loaded handguns were recovered in the cabin along with various personal items belonging to both Mr. Cummins and his female victim.
The victim appeared to be in good health and Mr. Cummins was cooperative with law enforcement authorities at the scene. Mr. Cummins was transported to the Siskiyou County Jail in Yreka and booked on a Maury County, TN fugitive arrest warrant for aggravated kidnapping. Contact has been initiated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) investigators. Memphis FBI and TBI investigators are en route to Siskiyou County to continue their on-going investigation. The kidnapping victim has been transferred to FBI Agents assigned to the Redding, CA office. She will undergo a forensic interview and as a crime victim, receive the care that she needs at this time. Mr. Cummins will be arraigned on Friday, April 21, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. Mr. Cummins also faces local charges for kidnapping and possession of stolen property. These and other charges are pending review by Siskiyou County District Attorney, Kirk Andrus.
According to Sheriff Jon Lopey, “I would like to commend the citizens that played a role in bringing Mr. Cummins’ activities to our attention, which led to a response by members of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office. I am proud of the men and women of this Department that played a role in this potentially dangerous surveillance and arrest, especially the Special Response Team responsible for the safe and successful resolution of this 6-week ordeal. The SRT worked in freezing weather conditions but resolved this mission without anyone getting hurt, which was a good day for our Department, the female victim, and her family. Like any major crime perpetrated against a young teenager, this case is a difficult one and will plague the victim, her family, friends, and the law enforcement officers and agents involved in the case for years to come. On behalf of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, I would like to offer our thoughts and prayers to the victim, her family, friends, and the all involved law enforcement officers and other members of the justice system as this investigation continues to achieve justice for all concerned.”
Anyone with any information about the activities of Mr. Cummins or his victim is urged to contact the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office 24-hour Dispatch Center at (530) 841-2900.
Apr 20, 2017
50-Year-Old Suspect Tad Cummins Apprehended, Awaiting Extradition to Tennessee
April 20, 2017
NASHVILLE – Acting on a tip received by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation late last night, authorities in Siskiyou County, California have rescued Elizabeth Thomas and arrested Tad Cummins, after locating the pair at a commune in Cecilville early this morning.
Thomas, 15, was the subject of a Tennessee AMBER Alert issued on March 14th, after having been kidnapped a day earlier by Tad Cummins, a former teacher at her school in Maury County, Tennessee. On March 17th, the TBI added the 50-year-old to the state’s ‘Top 10 Most Wanted’ list.
This morning, authorities from Siskiyou County located the Nissan Rogue in which the pair were traveling and later located the pair. Cummins surrendered without incident. Thomas was subsequently recovered by law enforcement officers. At the time of this release, efforts to reunite her with her family remained ongoing.
“Our Intelligence Analysts and Agents have worked tirelessly since issuing this AMBER Alert to process more than 1,500 leads from all 50 states,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “What happened in California this morning, however, proves it only takes one person to lead to a successful end. We are extremely thankful the hard work of all partners in this search has paid off. We’re also grateful for the public’s support and vigilance throughout this search effort.”
The TBI has been assisted in this search by a variety of law enforcement agencies across the country, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Maury County Sheriff’s Department, and the Office of 22nd District Attorney General Brent Cooper.
At the time of this release, Cummins, 50, remained in the custody of the Siskiyou County (CA) Sheriff’s Department without bond, awaiting extradition to Tennessee to face charges of Sexual Contact with a Minor and Aggravated Kidnapping. A currently booking photograph was not immediately available for release.