PANAMA CITY, Fla. — An 18-year-old suspected of committing a string of crimes with his 13-year-old girlfriend will return to his home state of Kentucky to face charges.
Dalton Hayes and his girlfriend Cheyenne Phillips were arrested early Sunday in Panama City Beach after being found sleeping in a stolen vehicle. During a Monday morning court appearance, Hayes agreed to return to Kentucky instead of going through a formal extradition process.
"I'll sign the papers so I can go back to Kentucky," Hayes said during the brief proceeding held via a video link-up between the Bay County Jail and the Bay County Courthouse.
Authorities said Hayes is expected to be charged with burglary, theft, criminal trespassing and criminal mischief.
Phillips will face charges in juvenile court because she is a minor. 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 Sunday.
The pair had eluded police in several states before the U.S. Marshal's Service and Panama City Beach police discovered them asleep in a car stolen from Georgia.
The couple 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 before they ended up in Panama City Beach.
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.
The girl "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 court records in Grayson County, Kentucky.
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.