NASHVILLE, Tenn./GUNTOWN, Mississippi (Reuters) - Four neighbors of a man who authorities say abducted a Tennessee family and killed the mother and one daughter were arrested in connection with the case, authorities said on Friday, one day after the man committed suicide as police closed in.
Adam Mayes, briefly the most-wanted fugitive in America, shot himself in the head on Thursday as police approached a spot in thick Mississippi woods where he was hiding with the remaining two daughters from the abducted Bain family of Tennessee.
Police found 12-year-old Alexandria Bain and 8-year-old Kyliyah Bain alive and unharmed on the ground nearby.
The girls were “hungry, thirsty and dehydrated” and suffering from exposure and poison ivy, said Aaron T. Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis division.
“They look like they’ve been in the woods for three days,” Ford said.
The girls were released to unidentified family members early on Friday after spending the night at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, hospital spokeswoman Anne Glankler said.
The discovery of the girls unharmed ended a week-long, multi-agency manhunt across two states that thrust the rural border area into the national spotlight.
The saga began in the rural western Tennessee town of Whiteville on April 27 when the husband of Jo Ann Bain, 31, reported his wife and three girls missing.
Authorities described Mayes as a friend of the Bain family, but said the relationship went wrong when the Bains announced a plan to move to Arizona.
According to criminal affidavits filed in Hardeman County, Tennessee, Mayes and his wife, Teresa, allegedly drove to Whiteville on April 27 to kidnap the girls, and killed their mother and older sister in the process.
Teresa Mayes then drove the girls and the corpses to Alpine, Mississippi, some 75 miles away, where Adam Mayes buried the corpses before disappearing into the woods with his captives.
Teresa Mayes has been charged with two counts of first degree murder and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping. Adam Mayes’ mother, Mary, has been charged with four counts of intent to commit especially aggravated kidnapping.
According to court affidavits, Teresa Mayes told investigators that Adam Mayes had intended to take the two younger girls.
The bodies of Jo Ann Bain and her daughter Adrienne Bain, 14, were discovered on May 4 in shallow graves behind the double-wide trailer Adam Mayes had shared with his parents and wife.
The surviving daughters lived for days with their captor in an area of uneven terrain thick with brush and concealed by towering oak and pine trees. So dense are the woods that search teams had combed the same area at least twice before the Thursday discovery of Adam Mayes and the girls without finding the trio, said Union County, Mississippi, Sheriff Jimmy Edwards.
Local residents Ronald and Aileene Roberts witnessed the repeated searches from their home near the site of the final confrontation.
“It’s amazing when someone knocks on your door and you open it to see someone standing there in head-to-toe camouflage with a helmet strapped to his head and a gun in his hand,” Aileene Roberts said on Friday. “And then you look out, and your yard is full of them.”
Ronald Roberts led a small group of reporters to the spot where the couple said Mayes ended his life. It bore the evidence of Thursday’s violence - blood splattered upon fallen leaves, medical gauze and a tracheotomy tube laying nearby.
Police did not say how the four additional people arrested - including a husband and wife and the adult son of the husband - were linked to the Mayes case. The couple were arrested for possessing a weapon and the son had been wanted previously by Mississippi authorities.
The FBI had offered a $100,000 reward for Adam Mayes, and on Wednesday placed him No. 1 on the bureau’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List.” The FBI reward was in addition to $71,000 already offered by other sources.
Writing by Daniel Trotta; editing by Dan Burns, Doina Chiacu and Mohammad Zargham