Authorities were still searching for a man who they say escaped from a prison van in South Carolina, stole a Wal-Mart truck and drove it to his ailing mother's home in Tennessee.

"He's here, and he's here because his mother is dying. She is at the house where he ran to," Police Chief Dave Barrera said. "His mother is dying of cancer. You can understand why he did what he did, but it's just the way he went about it."

Christopher Daniel Gay was arrested last month in Georgetown, Texas, and was being returned to Georgia to appear on a warrant. He also had recent warrants from Alabama and Tennessee, on various charges of escape and felony theft relating to stealing trucks and other heavy equipment.

Gay escaped from the van carrying 10 other prisoners during a break at a rest stop in southern South Carolina on Sunday night, Barrera said.

The van was operated by Nashville-based Prisoner Transport Operations of America, The Tennessean reported.

Gay eluded 19 police officers and two K-9 units in South Carolina before stealing a pickup truck and driving to Manchester, about 70 miles southeast of Nashville, police said.

He then stole a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer from the store's parking lot and it was spotted Monday afternoon in Coopertown, where his family lives, about 25 miles northwest of Nashville.

Gay led officers on a chase before he ran the truck — still filled with $70,000 in merchandise — into a field about 50 yards from his mother's home and fled into the woods. He was still being sought by Cheatham and Robertson county authorities late Tuesday night.

"If he'll turn himself in or if we capture him, we'll hold him in Tennessee at least long enough to see his mama," Barrera said.

Police were looking for a red and silver 1997 Chevy Avalanche that was stolen from the area about the same time Gay ditched the truck, WKRN-TV in Nashville reported.