USA Today is reporting that 50-year-old pedophile suspect Tad Cummins and his 15-year-old former student Elizabeth Thomas stayed at a renowned hippie commune for 10 days — much longer than we originally thought.
The 40-member Black Bear Ranch — the subject of multiple books and a film — was started in the 60s and sits in a remote region of the northern California mountains near the tiny town of Cecilville.
Tad and Elizabeth arrived in Cecilville two weeks ago broke and out of gas and food after their cross-country trek on back roads from Tennessee.
Griffin Barry, who takes care of a property there that includes a bar, gas pump, disc golf course, and cabins, felt compassion toward them after Tad told him a lie about he and Elizabeth were a husband and wife who had lost everything in a fire, according to UK’s Daily Mail. Griffin also happens to be from Tennessee.
Griffin relates, “In my head I'm thinking he had a house fire and lost everything. I came out here on a prayer and people helped me out and got me on my feet and hopefully I can pass it on.”
Griffin filled up their gas tank and gave them $40 before Tad and Elizabeth headed up to Black Bear Ranch, which is on a windy, dirt road an hour from town.
The commune doesn’t encourage visitors and doesn’t let them stay more than a couple days without an invite, according to rules posted on their website, yet for some reason they let Tad and Elizabeth remain for 10 days before asking them to leave.
Karuna Greenberg, a spokeswoman for the ranch, says Tad told a convincing story to get the commune to let them stay. She claims that nobody at the ranch knew about the weeks-long AMBER Alert and nationwide manhunt for Elizabeth and Tad.
She said with no Internet, cellphone reception, or daily newspaper, the commune doesn’t keep up with current news.
After being told to leave on April 17 because they were deemed not a good fit for the community, Tad and Elizabeth returned to Cecilville and asked Griffin for help again.
Griffin gave them an unfinished cabin to stay at in exchange to Tad helping him move rocks out of the nearby stream. It was after a friend showed him the AMBER Alert poster that Griffin realized who they were and helped facilitate Tad’s arrest on April 21.
Back at the commune, Greenberg says Tad and Elizabeth never would have been able to stay with them in the first place if they had known who they were.
"We are extremely glad that Cummins was caught, and hope that Elizabeth Thomas can begin to heal from this terrible incident," she added.
Elizabeth — found thin, scared, and unshowered — is undergoing intense counseling right now and has been reunited with her family in Tennessee.
We continue to pray for her recovery.