A Kentucky teenager accused of a string of crimes across the South says he and his girlfriend were trying to escape her abusive family and that he wishes he had bought bus tickets instead of stealing trucks as they moved toward Florida.

Officials say 18-year-old Dalton Hayes and his girlfriend, 13-year-old Cheyenne Phillips, began their run this month when they vanished from Leitchfield, Kentucky.

Hayes tells The News Herald (http://bit.ly/1CKBaWL ) of Panama City they planned to make it to Miami.

He says that if he could go back, he'd take the bus instead.

Officials recognized Phillips leaving a store Saturday. Authorities then found the pair sleeping in a stolen car.

Hayes agreed in court Monday to return to Kentucky to face charges.

An official there tells The Associated Press the abuse allegations will be discussed when the pair is back in the state.