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US 'crime spree' teenagers caught

Two teenage sweethearts suspected in a crime spree of stolen vehicles and pilfered checks around the south east of the US were captured over the weekend in Florida.

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

Norman Chaffins, the sheriff of Grayson County, Kentucky, where the teens live, said: "I spoke to Dalton and he was very scared, and he wanted to come home.

"He wanted me to come bring him home."

Mr Chaffins said the teens should be extradited back to Kentucky by the end of the week.

Today, Hayes was scheduled to make a morning court appearance via video link, according to the Bay County jail records in the Panama City area. Hayes was being held on a charge of custodial interference.

Florida's Department of Children and 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," she said.

Authorities said the US Marshal's Service and Panama City Beach Police discovered Hayes and Phillips asleep in a car stolen from the state of Georgia.

In Kentucky, the two teenagers will face charges including burglary, theft, criminal trespassing and criminal mischief, Mr Chaffins said. 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".

Ms 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", Ms Martin said.

By the time her son realised she was a mere 13, "he was already done in love with her", Ms Martin added.

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.

Mr Chaffins said the couple's behaviour had become "increasingly brazen and dangerous".

Twice, the teenagers 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.

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