Image: Christopher Daniel Gay
Daytona Beach News-Journal
Christopher Daniel Gay escaped from a prisoner van in South Carolina and led authorities on a five-state chase in an attempt to visit his dying mother, police believe.
updated 1/28/2007 1:08:58 AM ET 2007-01-28T06:08:58

An escaped prisoner who evaded a manhunt across the Southeast by stealing three vehicles, including singer Crystal Gayle’s tour bus, has been arrested, authorities said.

Christopher Daniel Gay, 32, was arrested around 11 p.m. Friday near the Daytona International Speedway, said Lt. Patrick Myers, spokesman for Daytona Beach Police.

Gay escaped from a prisoner transport van on Jan. 21 Sunday near Hardeeville, S.C., police said. Authorities have said his motive for fleeing was to see his terminally ill mother; it was unclear whether he ever made it there.

Authorities suspect Gay of stealing a pickup truck in South Carolina, and then the cab of a tractor-trailer in Georgia. He allegedly drove to Manchester, Tenn., where on Monday he hooked the cab to a Wal-Mart trailer filled with $300,000 in merchandise and took off again, police said. He abandoned the rig within 50 yards of his mother’s house north of Nashville and fled into a wooded area after Tennessee authorities spotted the truck Tuesday, police said.

He was spotted Thursday night driving a tour bus at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, but drove off after speedway officials became suspicious and asked him for identification, police said.

‘It’s a sad story,’ country singer says
A license plate check showed the bus belong to Crystal Gayle, whose hits include “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” Gayle didn’t know the bus was missing from a Nashville garage until speedway officials called, police said.

Gayle said she was relieved that no one was hurt.

“My heart goes out to him and his family,” Gayle said. “It’s a sad story, his mother is very ill. I do hope he gets to see her.”

Gay was being held at the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach. He was charged with grand theft auto, and he also had three outstanding warrants from Tennessee and three from Alabama, police said.

At the time of his escape, he was being sent to Pell City., Ala., on warrants charging him to appear on escape and felony charges.

There was no immediate indication Saturday if Gay was represented by an attorney.

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