Kentucky teens on the run spotted panhandling in Florida: Are they ready to surrender? (+video)(Read article summary)
Police say the two teenagers are suspected of a 12-day crime spree across the South.
Wal-Mart Inc. via The Grayson County (Ky.) Sheriff's Office/AP
Most reckless teenage love affairs end with nothing more than broken hearts. For the pair of teenage lovebirds whom police suspect of a five-state crime spree through the South, the repercussions may be more life-changing.
News sources are reporting that two Kentucky teenagers – Dalton Hayes, 18, and Cheyenne Phillips, 13 – have been spotted in Florida. They are accused of allegedly stealing three trucks to careen across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and now Florida, authorities say.
On Saturday, police said the pair were seen begging in the Sunshine State, but didn’t name the town to avoid tipping off the couple.
Police in Kentucky say that, while they do not believe the runaways are motivated by malice, the pair are flirting with a dangerous conclusion.
“We think it’s important for them to get back home, because they’re starting to bite off a little more than they can chew,” Norman Chaffins, sheriff of Grayson County, Ky., told the Lexington Herald-Ledger. “Our concern is that they could get themselves hemmed up in something that they ... We just don't want them to get hurt."
Police say that the teens, with Hayes believed to be taking the lead, stole a truck on Jan. 11 in Grayson, crashed it, hid in the woods, then allegedly stole another one before lighting out of Kentucky.
Hayes also faces burglary and theft charges in Kentucky, stemming from an arrest late last year, according to Grayson County court records.
Police are also investigating Hayes and Cheyenne for allegedly forging checks in Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and say they suspect the teens may have been involved in a series of home burglaries. And officials have said Hayes is now wanted on what's called "custodial interference" charges for taking Cheyenne along.
They were spotted at a Wal-Mart in South Carolina, but then moved to Georgia, where police say they believe the duo stole another truck in Henry County, about 30 miles southeast of Atlanta, on Jan. 14. The truck's owner said he had two guns in the truck.
When the two left their western Kentucky hometown on Jan. 3, Hayes’ mother, Tammy Martin, told reporters Hayes knew he faced possible grand jury indictment connected to the previous arrest. He’s now facing a growing list of additional charges.
"This is not a game to us," Sheriff Chaffins told reporters. "Our biggest fear is that Dalton is not going to stop for the police. He's going to run every time they approach him."
He added that the couple's behavior is "becoming increasingly brazen and dangerous."
Meanwhile, their parents say they are sick with worry, as they have repeatedly pleaded for the runaways to come home to face the consequences. There has only been one reported interaction between the runaways and their parents.
Hayes sent his mom a text on Jan. 6, saying, “Mommy, don’t worry. I’m fine, okay — plenty of money and food. Love you, good night, sweet dreams.”
Authorities said they hope that evidence in Florida that the teens have now run low on money suggests the couple may be ready to end their ill-advised tour of the South without anyone getting hurt.