NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The sheriff of Maury County was the first person to speak to Elizabeth Thomas’ family and tell her father she’d been found safe.
Bucky Rowland spoke with News 2 Thursday afternoon while on vacation in Florida, saying the news of Thomas’ rescue was “a great moment of relief.”MORE: Tad Cummins arrested, Elizabeth Thomas rescued at California commune
“A lot of prayers and a lot of hard work has paid off. It was definitely the resolution that we wanted in this situation. We wanted to make it peaceful and bring Mr. Cummins to justice peacefully, and most of all to get Elizabeth back to her family, friends, and community,” he said.
The sheriff relayed to us that he is who called Anthony Thomas, Elizabeth’s father, to deliver the good news.
“As soon as we got confirmation that we had been able to retrieve or rescue Elizabeth, I did call Anthony Thomas, the dad, and you know, I just wanted to let him know because I wanted him to hear from us first that she had been rescued safely and she was safe and sound,” he said.
“He was just overwhelmed,” Rowland told News 2.RELATED: Black Bear Ranch: Details on commune where Cummins, Thomas found
Anthony Thomas, father of Elizabeth Thomas
We caught up with Anthony Thomas a short time later who was smiling from ear to ear, saying over and over he is “very happy.”
Thomas told News 2 he was in Nashville when he started getting text messages and calls that his 15-year-old daughter had been found.
When asked what he looks forward to most to see his daughter again, he replied, “I don’t know where to start. I just don’t where to start.”
“I’m just so overjoyed to have her home, that she’s safe,” Anthony Thomas added. “I can’t wait. I just can hardly wait to see her.”MORE: Timeline of search for Elizabeth Thomas, Tad Cummins
Kat Bozeman, older sister of Elizabeth Thomas
News 2 also spoke with Thomas’ sister earlier Thursday. Kat Bozeman said she heard the news from her father.
“We were beyond excited. It was the best day ever,” she said, adding, “We just want to see her and obviously, she’s in California and we can’t do it, but we just want to be with her.”
Bozeman said there are no words outside of how happy she is that her sister was safe, and that’s been their only concern.
“Our only concern from beginning to end was she was found, happy and safe. She was found and they said she appears to be healthy and safe. That’s all we cared about was her being found,” the sister explained.
“Obviously she has been through a huge, traumatic event,” she added.
Bozeman told News 2 the FBI said it could be a day or so before the family is reunited. Thomas was reportedly taken to a hospital in California to be checked out; it’s not yet known when she’ll be able to speak with her family.
As for Cummins, the sister says he’s not their concern.
“Obviously that’s the police – that’s their job. Law enforcement will handle that. It’s out of our realm anyway. We just want her safe. We want to make sure she gets medical care. We want to make sure she gets a bath and has clean clothes. “
Bozeman also said the family is thankful for everyone’s help, “everyone sharing that car and sharing her face because that’s what brought her home.”
Neda, younger sister of Elizabeth Thomas
Another sister of Thomas told News 2 she woke up to tons of missed phone calls and text messages, and she’s just happy they found her.
“I’m just so happy they found her and I’m waiting for her to come home so that I can see her,” Neda said through tears.
The 14-year-old said she can’t wait to tell her big sister she loves her and give her a hug.
Jason Whatley, attorney for the Thomas family
The attorney for the Thomas family sang the praises of law enforcement Thursday, expressing how unbelievably elated they all are.
“Local law enforcement did what they were supposed to, and then the job got done. It’s just amazing to sit back and see that it finally happened. A lot of frustration along the way, but here we are. We’re just elated,” Jason Whatley told News 2.
As for Anthony Thomas, Whatley said “he could not be happier.”
“He’s also got the mix of emotions. He wants to see his daughter so badly. He’s so anxious to learn how she’s doing emotionally. We know there’s a lot of damage there we’ve got to cope with, and we’re going to deal with it right. We’ve got a lot of experts behind the scenes that are helping us,” he explained.
“The bottom line is he is focused on nothing other than getting her back right now,” the lawyer added.
Whatley said the Thomas family has not yet spoken to Elizabeth and they want to speak to her before they address the media.
“The family is so thankful beyond words,” he said.
Thomas is expected to fly back home to Tennessee on Friday.