By Adrian Sainz and Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Press
GUNTOWN — A Mississippi manhunt for a fugitive accused of kidnapping and a double slaying had small town residents on lockdown Thursday and shattered the feeling of safety in a place where everyone knows their neighbors.
The hunt for Adam Mayes and the two young sisters he is accused of kidnapping has encompassed parts of at least three counties in northern Mississippi.
State and local law enforcement agents on Thursday searched a densely wooded area about 10 miles from Mayes’ home near Guntown. State troopers blocked a road, stopped vehicles and searched their trunks.
“This is the last place he was seen in, in the Alpine area,” said Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards. “We don’t have anything to lead us anywhere else.”
It was one of multiple forays this week by heavily armed federal agents, state troopers and SWAT teams in search of Mayes or a hideout he may have used.
Authorities say they think the missing girls, Alexandria Bain, 12, and Kyliyah Bain, 8, are still with Mayes, nearly two weeks after he fled with them.
Shelby Bryan, 40, is a cashier at the County Line No.1, where Mayes was seen on surveillance video after the girls disappeared. She said people are frightened and upset.
“Some women are scared to go home until their husbands get there. Then you have some that don’t want to leave their house,” Bryan said. “I have husbands coming in here telling me, ‘My wife made me put the gun beside the bed last night.'”
Mayes and his wife, Teresa, are charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Jo Ann Bain, 31, and her daughter, Adrienne, 14. Their bodies were found buried outside the Mayes’ home a week after they were reported missing by Jo Ann Bain’s husband, Gary.
Mayes’ mother-in-law Josie Tate told The Associated Press that Mayes thought the missing sisters might actually be his daughters and it caused problems in his marriage to her daughter, Teresa, who is jailed in the case.
“She was tired of him doting on those two little girls that he claimed were his,” Tate said.
Mayes’ neighbors have been questioned. One neighbor loosed his brown pit bull in an apparent effort to ward away media and onlookers stopping to get a glimpse of the home where Jo Ann Bain and her daughter were buried in the backyard.
The search area includes a mix of thick pine woods, large open fields, creeks and small lakes. Back roads crisscross the area, some of them wide enough for only one vehicle at a time. Residents say there are plenty of abandoned homes, empty trailers and small outbuildings where someone could hide.
Authorities said Mayes has changed his appearance since the mother and children were reported missing. They released surveillance video of him with short hair at a market near Guntown.
Natasha McGee, owner of Nala Childcare in Guntown, said she has been keeping kids inside and talking to them about avoiding strangers. She said police stop by from time to time.
“I think people are scared, mostly. We’ve been on lockdown for a couple of days, making sure all the doors are locked and our gates are locked,” McGee said. “It’s just a scary thing. I can’t believe it happened in our small town. Nothing like that has even happened to us before.”
McGee said the case is puzzling, and Mayes and his family are mysterious to many residents.
“We know everybody around here, but nobody knows him or his family. Like I said, it’s just a peculiar case for us. I hope it’s over soon.”
Authorities have put Mayes on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List and urged him to surrender. The reward for information leading to Mayes’ arrest is now at $171,000.
Abe Whitfield, owner of Abe’s Grill in Corinth on the Mississippi-Tennessee state line, said he thinks Mayes is still in the woods nearby because he probably has little money and no car.
Mayes’ wife told investigators he killed Jo Ann and Adrienne Bain at their Whiteville, Tenn., home on April 27 so he could abduct the two young sisters, according to court documents.
Authorities refused to comment on the motive for the April 27 slayings and abductions.
Teresa Mayes told investigators that after she saw her husband kill the two in the garage at the Bain home, she drove him, the younger girls and the bodies to Mississippi, according to affidavits filed in court. She faces six felony counts in the case: two first-degree murder charges and four especially aggravated kidnapping charges.
People who knew Adam Mayes and the Bains have described him as unusually close to the family and the girls. He was described as a friend of Gary Bain, and the children considered him an uncle.
In an earlier interview, Tate’s daughter, Bobbi Booth, said Teresa Mayes suspected her husband was having an affair with Jo Ann Bain.
Mayes was often at the Bain home. Authorities said he was spending the night there before the mother and daughters were reported missing so he could help the family to pack for a planned move to Tucson, Ariz., and then drive their belongings west.
Authorities said Alexandria has brown hair and hazel eyes and is 5 feet tall and 105 pounds. Kyliyah has blonde hair and brown eyes and is 4 feet tall and 57 pounds.
Mayes’ mother-in-law, who lives in Chatsworth, Ga., said she’s known him for 25 years but didn’t approve of him because his family never seemed to stay in one place and he couldn’t hold down a job.
“Teresa’s father and I begged her: ‘Do not marry him, do not go off with him, do not live with him,'” she said.
Tate described her daughter as a slow learner who spent her school life in special education. Teresa Mayes was also incapable of having her own children, she said.
The mother said she believed Mayes had threatened her daughter and perhaps his own mother, Mary Frances Mayes, who has also been charged with conspiracy to commit especially aggravated kidnapping.
Mary Mayes’ attorney, Somerville attorney Terry Dycus, said his client maintains she is not guilty. Dycus said it was too early to discuss what the mother’s defense would be.
“The feelings I have for Adam are as close to hate as I’ll ever come because he’s destroyed not only the Bain family but he’s destroyed my family too,” Tate said.
Mohr reported from Jackson, Miss. AP reporter Sheila Burke in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this story.