GUNTOWN, Miss. (AP) — Days of grueling searches for two young girls and the kidnapper who killed their mother and sister led to the kind of terrain that favors the hunted — high hardwoods and deep ravines near a red-brick church perched on a hill.
Specially trained officers had come up empty-handed for days but were following another lead Thursday evening after Adam Mayes was put on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. Dozens of tips turned up nothing. This latest led officers to the woods near Zion Hill Baptist Church, just a couple of miles from Mayes’ rented mobile home in Guntown, where 31-year-old Jo Ann Bain and her 14-year-old daughter, Adrienne, had been buried in a shallow grave.
The officers had searched the church and later split up and set out down two old logging roads leading deep into the forest. Just 60 yards down, Mississippi Highway Patrol Master Sgt. Steve Crawford saw a little girl’s head in the dirt. Within inches, another child. A few more inches, the man who proved so elusive.
A search that dragged on for days ended in seconds.
“Let’s see your hands,” the officers shouted.
Mayes pushed himself up to his knees, pulled out a 9 mm pistol and shot himself in the head. He didn’t utter a word, and died a couple hours later at hospital.
Twelve-year-old Alexandria Bain and 8-year-old Kyliyah sat up, subdued, within reach of Mayes’ body. Crawford said they didn’t cry, instead looking almost relieved.
“Now we can go home,” Lt. Lee Ellington heard the older girl tell her little sister.
Home was a place the girls hadn’t seen since April 27, when Mayes, a friend they considered an uncle, killed Jo Ann and Adrienne Bain in the garage of their home in Whiteville, Tenn., according to police.
Mayes, a friend of Jo Ann's husband, Gary, had gone to the house the night before to help the family pack for a move to Arizona. Instead, police say he killed the mother and daughter, packed their corpses into a car, grabbed the younger girls and headed south with his wife to the mobile home in Guntown. Authorities have not said how they were killed or what time it may have happened.
The girls told their rescuers they had gone three days without any food or water. Some investigators believe they were in the woods even longer before being found late Thursday, exhausted, dehydrated and itching with poison ivy.
The girls’ ordeal came to an abrupt end, just a few miles from where their mother and sister had been buried. They were given water, whisked away in an ambulance, shielded by giant white sheets at the hospital so they could walk into the emergency room without the glare of news cameras.
Adam Mayes spared them. Now it will be up to the fragile memories of young, traumatized girls to answer the questions nagging at experienced lawmen who worked long hours to find them: Where had they been? How did they survive in the woods?
And then there are painful questions that need to be answered. Did Mayes hurt them? Did they watch their mom and big sister die?
But because Adam Mayes put a bullet in his head, people may never solve the biggest mystery: Why did he do all this?