By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Pres
GUNTOWN, Miss. (AP) — Days of searching 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.
The latest led officers to the woods near Zion Hill Baptist Church, miles from Mayes’ rented mobile home in Guntown, in northern Mississippi. There, the bodies of a 31-year-old Tennessee woman, 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. 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 had proved so elusive.
A search that had dragged on for days ended in seconds.
“Let’s see your hands,” the officers shouted.
Mayes, 35, 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 hours later at a hospital.
Twelve-year-old Alexandria Bain and 8-year-old Kyliyah sat up, subdued. Crawford said they didn’t cry, instead looking almost relieved.
“Now we can go home,” the older girl told her sister, according to Lt. Lee Ellington, part of a team from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Home — in Whiteville, Tenn., about 70 miles west of Memphis — was a place the girls hadn’t seen since April 27, when they were reported missing along with their mother and sister.
Described as a family friend who was like an uncle to the girls, Mayes supposedly 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 her oldest daughter in the garage of their home, 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 when.
Authorities say Mayes knew Jo Ann Bain’s husband, Gary, and that they at one time had been married to sisters.
Gary Bain told police that his wife and daughters were asleep when he went to bed at midnight and were gone when he awoke the next day. He figured the girls went to school and Jo Ann had gone somewhere, too. But she didn’t answer her cell phone that day, April 27, and the girls never got off the school bus that afternoon.
At 8 p.m., he called the Hardeman County Sherriff’s Office to report them missing.
Police interviewed Mayes, who acknowledged to investigators on April 29 that he was the last one to see Jo Ann Bain and the girls, but police said they had no evidence of a crime. And it first, it wasn’t known if Jo Ann had willingly left and taken the children with her.
On April 30, Jo Ann Bain’s SUV was found abandoned on a country road in Tennessee.
About 80 miles away in Mississippi, Adam Mayes was seen that same day at a market in Mississippi with his long hair chopped off. He told another customer that it would be cooler in the hot Southern summer; investigators would later warn he might have cut the girls’ hair to disguise them, too.
Hardeman County Sheriff John Doolen said two days later that Mayes was a person of interest in the case but that there were no signs of foul play.
On May 4, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an endangered child alert, pleading for the public’s help in finding the family. Investigators still said they had no evidence of a crime.
But police documents show that around the same time, Mayes’ wife, Teresa, admitted her involvement. Documents show Teresa Mayes told investigators she saw Adam Mayes kill the mother and daughter in the garage of their home so he could abduct the younger children, Alexandria and Kyliyah
Teresa Mayes also said she drove with Mayes, the girls and the bodies to Mississippi, and saw her husband dig a hole in his backyard.
Mayes’ mother-in-law, Josie Tate, later told The Associated Press that Mayes thought the missing sisters might actually be his daughters.
On May 5, the Mississippi Highway Patrol issued an amber alert for the children, warning that Mayes was armed and dangerous. He had been charged in Tennessee with kidnapping. That same day, police announced they had found two bodies buried in the Mayes’ backyard. But they were badly decomposed and not initially identified. Authorities later said the bodies were those of Jo Ann and Adrienne Bain.
By May 8, Adam Mayes’ wife had been charged with murder and kidnapping in the case and his mother, Mary Mayes, had been charged with conspiracy to commit especially aggravated kidnapping. But there was still no trace of the two sisters. Mary Mayes’ attorney said his client maintains she is not guilty.
Adam Mayes had been investigated in 2010 on allegations of child abuse and possessing child pornography, according to records from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in Jackson, Tenn. Mayes denied the allegations, and following an investigation that cleared him, he was never charged. The AP isn’t identifying the child in the case because of the nature of the abuse allegation.
Alexandria and Kyliyah’s ordeal then ended abruptly, 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.
Police have many questions about what they saw and what happened to them between April 27 and last Thursday. Authorities have refused to comment on the motive for the slayings and abductions.
But because Adam Mayes put a bullet in his head, people may never really know why he did all of this?
“That was too good for him. He should have suffered just a little bit more,” said Beverly Goodman, Jo Ann Bain’s aunt. “I was hoping (they would take him alive because) I wanted some answers to some questions that probably will never get answered now.”
Associated Press writers Erik Schelzig in Whiteville, Tenn., and Adrian Sainz in Guntown contributed to this report.