Elizabeth Thomas reunited with family in TN - WSMV News 4

Elizabeth Thomas reunited with family in TN

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Elizabeth Thomas was found Thursday morning in Northern California. (WSMV) Elizabeth Thomas was found Thursday morning in Northern California. (WSMV)
The sign outside Thomas' school welcoming her home. (WSMV) The sign outside Thomas' school welcoming her home. (WSMV)

Elizabeth Thomas, the teen at the center of an Amber Alert that drew nationwide attention, is back home in Tennessee.

Officials from the FBI, the TBI and the Maury County Sheriff's Office flew the 15-year-old back to Tennessee on a private airplane sometime late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

Jason Whatley, the attorney representing Elizabeth Thomas' family, said the teen underwent a medical interview and a forensics interview before getting on the plane.

Channel 4 is told Thomas had a smile on her face and was glad to be with her family. She gave her father a hug and told him she loved him.

Thomas was reportedly also worried she would be in trouble, but Whatley said everyone was glad and relieved to have her home.

Thomas’ friends told Channel 4 they are anxiously awaiting her return.

“We’re in celebration mode, but we know they’re also in healing mode,” said Caleb Banks, a friend who waited in the attorney’s office with the family Thursday night. “Your emotions are so raw that you don’t know how to feel, but you just know you’re excited.”

The teen and her family are expected to stay secluded for the next several days.

"We have mental health people that are engaged actively in this case that are going to be working with her for her best interest. We're following their recommendations completely," Whatley said.

Whatley issued the following statement on Friday:

Elizabeth Thomas is in a safe location with family and friends where she is comfortable and resting. She is being evaluated and treated by mental health experts specializing in trauma. There is no doubt that she has suffered severe emotional trauma and that her process of recovery is only just beginning. The family is extremely grateful for the thoughts and prayers of the nation and asks sincerely for those continued prayers as Elizabeth becomes able to process the last 39 days. The family asks for privacy as this journey begins.

On a personal note, I met Elizabeth for the first time. I was taken aback by who she is. Elizabeth is a little child. She could easily pass for 12. The primary photo used and reprinted so many times by law enforcement, the media, and even our office, is inaccurate. She is a little girl in every sense of the word. This was the abduction of an impressionable, little child.

Thomas was found in Siskiyou County, CA, with her former teacher, 50-year-old Tad Cummins, on Thursday morning.

"This was difficult under any circumstances, but knowing that our citizens not just in Maury County and in Tennessee, southern Middle Tennessee, but across the country. Here in California and Siskiyou County, CA, a state I've never even been to, you had concerned citizens who did the right thing, and so there are so many good people in this country," Whatley said.

Whatley credited law enforcement, the media and regular people who were looking and praying for the teen for playing significant roles in her rescue.

"This case could have ended very differently, and so I just want you to know the family, from the bottom of their heart, from the bottom of our heart as their representatives, recognizes that Elizabeth is safe because of the help and the prayers and the concern of all the persons I've mentioned," he said.

Cummins is being held without bond. He is awaiting extradition to Tennessee, where he will be charged with sexual contact with a minor and aggravated kidnapping. He is facing an additional federal charge and more charges in California.

Channel 4 spoke with Elizabeth Thomas' father, Anthony Thomas, as he stopped by his attorney's office in Columbia shortly after learning she had been found safe. Click here to watch the full interview.

Anthony Thomas said it's important to figure out what state of mind his daughter is in and said he will likely need to get her help. He said he can hardly wait to see her and tell her he loves her.

Elizabeth Thomas' sister, Kat Thomas, shared a message.

"We love you, and we can't wait to see you, and it's amazing, we have so many words, we are so excited," she said. "We just want Mary Catherine home. That's all we care about."

The teen's mother, Kimberly Thomas, was arrested last year and charged with child abuse and neglect.

Elizabeth Thomas has nine siblings. Her younger siblings are being raised by their father after their mother's arrest. One of her sisters, Brandy, said their mother does not want to speak publicly right now but said she is taking time to "be in prayer" for her daughter. She said they can all finally sleep again. 

Stay with Channel 4 and WSMV.com for updates on this story.

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