(PANAMA CITY, Fla.) — The runaway Kentucky teen whom cops arrested in Florida after an alleged crime spree says the underage girlfriend by his side for the past two weeks insisted repeatedly that she was a young adult.
“I kept asking her old she was, she kept telling me 18, almost 19,” Dalton Hayes, 18, told ABC affiliate WMBB-TV from jail Tuesday in Panama City, Florida, where he and his 13-year-old girlfriend were apprehended Sunday in a car they had allegedly stolen.
“She told me she had a truck, had a license.”
Hayes’ family also didn’t know the girl was 13, according to Hayes’ sister Heather Martin.
“We were under the impression she was 19,” Martin told ABC News last week. “She would go into the local convenience store and come out with tobacco products. We didn’t know she was not an adult.”
Hayes told WMBB Tuesday, “It was worth the last 14 days with her, but my time with her wasn’t worth putting my niece and nephew behind.”
Hayes had been seeing the girl “for about three months,” according to his sister, before, on Jan. 4, the couple reportedly plowed through a Kentucky cattle farm in an allegedly stolen vehicle. Police said the teens then stole a red 2006 Toyota Tacoma that had a firearm inside.
Hayes and his girlfriend then fled the state, police say. They were later spotted in South Carolina and then Georgia, where, on Jan. 14, the Tacoma was recovered and a Silver 2001 Toyota Tundra was reported stolen, police say.
Lt. Joseph Smith of the Henry County, Georgia Police Department told ABC News police couldn’t confirm whether the teens dropped off the Tacoma and stole the Tundra.
The Tundra had two loaded handguns inside when it was stolen, the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office in Kentucky said.
On Jan. 18, the teens were found in Florida, asleep in the Tundra, authorities said. “The guns were not on them [the teens] when the car was recovered in Florida,” Grayson County Sheriff Norman Chaffins said, adding that what happened to the guns is part of the investigation.
Hayes was arrested and, according to WMBB, he appeared in court Monday, where he waived his right to an extradition hearing.
Hayes’ mother, Tammy Martin, with whom Hayes lives, told ABC News Sunday, “I want people to know that [Hayes and his girlfriend] are not violent individuals. They did steal vehicles, but they would never actually physically harm anyone. We’re just glad that it’s over and that they’re safe now.”
The teens could also face charges in South Carolina. Police Chief Blair Shaffer from Manning, South Carolina, said his department has “minor” forgery charges against the teens for allegedly passing a forged check, but “back home is the best place for these teens to be.”
Hayes will be charged with two counts of theft by unlawful taking over $10,000, burglary, criminal mischief, custodial interference and criminal trespassing, Kentucky authorities say, adding he will be back in the state “by the end of the week.”
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