Teens suspected in southern crime spree captured in Florida

In this January 2015 photo made from surveillance video and released by the Grayson County Sheriff's Office, in Kentucky, 18-year-old Dalton Hayes and 13-year-old Cheyenne Phillips walk into a South Carolina Wal-Mart. Kentucky authorities say the two teenage sweethearts suspected in a crime spree of stolen vehicles and pilfered checks across the South have been apprehended in in Panama City Beach Florida early Sunday Jan. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Wal-Mart Inc. via The Grayson County (Ky.) Sheriff's Office)

One of the two teenage sweethearts from Kentucky suspected in a crime spree of stolen vehicles and pilfered checks around the South awaited a first court appearance Monday in Florida, where they were captured over the weekend.

Eighteen-year-old Dalton Hayes and his 13-year-old girlfriend, Cheyenne Phillips, were arrested without incident before dawn Sunday in Panama City Beach, according to authorities. The two had eluded police in several states while raising alarm.

“I spoke to Dalton and he was very scared, and he wanted to come home,” said Norman Chaffins, the sheriff of Grayson County, Kentucky, where the teens live. “He wanted me to come bring him home.”

Chaffins told The Associated Press the teens should be extradited back to Kentucky by the end of the week.

On Monday, Hayes was scheduled to make an 8:30 a.m. court appearance via video hookup, according to the Bay County jail records in the Panama City area. Hayes was being held Sunday on a charge of custodial interference.

Florida’s Department of Children & Families was called to assist Panama City Beach Police, but Phillips was not in the state’s custody, said DaMonica Rivas, a DCF spokeswoman. “The juvenile has been taken to a safe location until arrangements with the family are made,” Rivas said.

Authorities said the U.S. Marshal’s Service and Panama City Beach Police discovered Hayes and Phillips asleep in a car stolen from Georgia.

In Kentucky, the two teens will face charges including burglary, theft, criminal trespassing and criminal mischief, Chaffins told The Associated Press. Phillips will face charges in juvenile court because she is a minor.

Chaffins said he was relieved the crime spree ended peacefully. If the couple had not been found asleep and surrounded, he said, they may have run again.

Hayes and Phillips began their run from the law and their families earlier this month when they vanished from their small hometown in western Kentucky. Authorities believe their travels took them to South Carolina and Georgia.

Hayes’ mother, Tammy Martin, had urged her son and his companion to surrender and “face the consequences.”

Martin said the couple had been dating for about three months. She said the girl portrayed herself as being 19, and the family, including Hayes, believed her.

Cheyenne “would go in and write checks, and she would come out with cigarettes and stuff, so I didn’t have any reason not to believe she wasn’t 19,” Martin said.

By the time her son realized she was a mere 13, “he was already done in love with her,” Martin said.

When he hit the road, Hayes was running away from trouble back home. He faces burglary and theft charges in his home county, stemming from an arrest late last year, according to Grayson County court records.

He was planning to be at the local judicial center Jan. 5 to find out if a grand jury had indicted him on the charges, his mother said. His case did not come up, but by that time the teens were gone.

Chaffins said the couple’s behavior had become “increasingly brazen and dangerous.”

Twice, the teens were able to evade law officers in Kentucky. They crashed the first truck they stole and hid in the woods. Then they later stole another truck nearby, Chaffins said.

At one point, the two were spotted at a Wal-Mart in South Carolina, where the teens are thought to have passed two stolen checks, said Manning, South Carolina, Police Chief Blair Shaffer.

Authorities said they believe they then headed to Georgia and stole a pickup truck southeast of Atlanta.

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