Police say two teenage sweethearts whose multi-state crime spree touched the Atlanta area may be headed for the Florida coast, begging strangers for cash at gas stations along the way.
They’re probably long gone from this area by now, said local authorities and the Kentucky sheriff coordinating the search. There’s been no sign of Dalton Hayes, 18, or Cheyenne Phillips, 13, since Wednesday, when they allegedly ditched one stolen pickup truck in Henry County and took off in another, which had two firearms and ammunition inside.
“It’s been 72 hours,” Henry County police Lt. Joey Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Saturday. “We’ve just got to assume they’ve left the area.”
Police say they may have been involved in a series of home burglaries before bolting from their small Kentucky town in a stolen red pickup. They’ve been on the run for two weeks, accused of passing off forged checks in Kentucky, North Carolina and at a South Carolina Wal-Mart store. The national news media has called them a teen Bonnie and Clyde.
Norman Chaffins, sheriff in Grayson County, Kentucky, said he received a tip they were in the Florida panhandle — he declined to say where, specifically — but it didn’t pan out. He’s received other tips that they’re in Alabama, Texas and Washington state.
Police have confirmed they’re asking strangers for money, the sheriff said. One lead placed them at a homeless camp. The teens suggested in communications with family members they were headed to the beach, leading police at one point to think they might go to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Now, based on their trajectory, Florida seems logical, Chaffins said.
“They’re just staying under the radar,” the sheriff told the AJC. “Both of them appear to be street smart kids.”
Chaffins has said he’s worried the manhunt could end badly, with the teens becoming increasingly bold, armed with two handguns and likely to get desperate. The pickup stolen from a driveway on Airline Road in Henry County — a silver 2001 Toyota Tundra (Georgia tag CF116I) — hasn’t been recovered, so they may still be driving it, Chaffins said.
Hayes’ mother urged the couple to surrender and “face the consequences.” Her son is wanted on theft and burglary charges, as well as custodial interference, or luring a minor away from her legal guardians.
“I pretty much cry myself to sleep every night,” Tammy Martin said, “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.”
The couple had been dating for about three months, with Hayes and his family believing she was 19, Martin said. She said she once saw Cheyenne come out of a store with cigarettes, which a 13-year-old can’t buy.
By the time her son realized she was younger, “he was already done in love with her,” Martin said.
Hayes was planning to be at the local judicial center on Jan. 5 to find out if a grand jury had indicted him on burglary and theft charges, stemming from an arrest last year, his mother said. His case did not come up, but by that time the teens were gone.
Associated Press reports contributed to this article.