The man who led authorities to the 15-year-old missing student who vanished with her teacher is describing the tense moments that led to the disgraced educator's arrest and the teen's safe return.
Griffin Barry, the caretaker for several cabins in Northern California, allowed Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas to stay the night on the property and quickly realized it was the couple who were wanted by police in a nationwide manhunt that's been in effect for more than a month.
Barry called 911 and alerted police that he had two people that matched the description of the teacher and student.
Barry said he first met Cummins at a gas station a week prior when the fugitive teacher asked for directions and needed gas. Barry added that Cummins gave him a story that they lost their home in a house fire and needed money.
“At first I thought they were on hard times and lost everything, then figured it out," he told Inside Edition. "It was twisted."
He phoned police, who surrounded the cabin early Thursday morning. Cops told the caretaker to honk his horn to wake up Cummins.
“They didn’t want a hostage situation,” Barry recalled. “After he got up and got out, they got him.”
Barry said he hardly had any interaction with the teenager, saying “she looked depressed.”
“We live out in the wilderness," the cabin's owner, Monk O’Hare, told Inside Edition. "We have to police our own community and our own self."
O'Hare added: "I was very shocked. I had seen these people on the news before and thought to myself, this would be crazy if these people ended up in Cecilville.”
Cummins' mugshot shows he dyed his beard while they were on the run. Thomas is said to be “healthy” and “safe.”
Thomas and Cummins disappeared from their home town of Columbia, Tenn., on March 13 and were last seen at a Walmart in Oklahoma City just two days later.
There hadn't been a single confirmed sighting of the pair since.
They made their 2,500-mile journey to Northern California via the Shasta Trinity National Forest, an enormous wilderness of more than two million acres of land. It became the perfect place to hide.
Cummins and Thomas had originally sought sanctuary in the Black Bear Ranch in Northern California, a commune whose slogan is "free land for free people," but they were turned away.