LEITCHFIELD, Ky. — Two Kentucky teenagers who vanished nearly two weeks ago are suspected in a multi-state crime spree that had police desperately searching for the couple — an 18-year-old and a 13-year-old girl he had been dating for months.
Grayson County Sheriff Norman Chaffins said the couple, Dalton Hayes and Cheyenne Phillips, disappeared Jan. 3 from their small hometown in western Kentucky. Since then, authorities believe the couple has traveled to South Carolina and Georgia. Along the way, they’re suspected of stealing multiple vehicles and using stolen checks, law enforcement officials said.
Hayes’ mother said the girl had portrayed herself as being 19 years old.
“She 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. Because normally you can’t buy cigarettes when you’re 13 years old,” Tammy Martin said.
Chaffins said the couple’s behavior is “becoming increasingly brazen and dangerous,” and he said they had evaded law enforcement twice. The sheriff said he believes Hayes is calling the shots as the teens try to stay ahead of the law.
“He’s a hard-headed kid,” the sheriff said. “He does have issues with authority. Very rarely does he take responsibility for what he’s done, and he has a history of making bad choices.”
Hayes’ mother urged the young couple to turn themselves in and “face the consequences.”
“I pretty much cry myself to sleep every night worrying about where they are, and if a police officer or any random individual tries to pull them over and isn’t so nice and hurts them,” she said.
The young couple had been dating for about three months and liked to hang out and watch movies at the Martins’ home, Tammy Martin said.
“She was here like every single day for the past three months when they started dating,” she said.
The two were spotted Monday at a Wal-Mart in South Carolina. Authorities believe they then headed to Georgia and stole a pickup truck from the driveway of a man’s home in Henry County, about 30 miles southeast of Atlanta. The homeowner awoke Wednesday morning to find his Toyota Tundra was gone, along with two handguns he kept stashed inside the vehicle, Henry County police Lt. Joey Smith said Friday.
Hours later, another truck the couple is suspected of having stolen in another state was found nearby. It had crashed through a fence and left behind a vacant building on neighboring property, Smith said.
“We would assume that our stolen vehicle may be occupied by this same couple,” Smith said. “We don’t have any direct knowledge that it is them.”
The owner of the truck stolen in Georgia told police he kept a Glock semi-automatic handgun and a .38-caliber revolver inside the vehicle. They were reported stolen along with the truck.
Smith said police were checking surveillance video from nearby convenience stores to see if they could find any further evidence connecting the Kentucky couple to the truck theft.
Chaffins said anyone who spots the couple should call 911. The situation is getting more serious as more time passes, he said.
“This is not a game to us,” Chaffins said. “Our biggest fear is that Dalton is not going to stop for the police, he’s going to run every time they approach him and they get in a pursuit. When a pursuit starts and somebody is not going to stop, the outcome is usually not a good one.”
Schreiner reported from Louisville. Associated Press reporters Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia, and Rebecca Yonker in Louisville contributed to this report.