ALPINE COMMUNITY, Mississippi (Reuters) - The most-wanted fugitive in America shot himself dead on Thursday, but the two girls he was suspected of kidnapping were found alive, ending a drama that began with the killing of the girls’ mother and older sister.
Adam Mayes, 35, shot himself in the head after Mississippi state game wardens came across him and the girls hiding in the woods, said Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards, who arrived on the scene while Mayes was still alive but fatally wounded.
“The girls are safe. He is deceased,” FBI Special Agent Joel Siskovic said.
Mayes was pronounced dead at Baptist Hospital from a 9mm gunshot wound that passed from his right temple through the other side of his head, Union County Deputy Coroner Rob Anderson said.
The two girls, 12-year-old Alexandria Bain and her 8-year-old sister Kyliyah, were hungry but getting medical attention, Edwards said. They had a jug of water with them.
“I told them it’s going to be OK. I gave them a big hug ... When I seen these kids, it was a huge relief,” Edwards told Reuters.
Authorities described Mayes as a friend of the Bain family, but said the relationship went terribly wrong when the Bains planned a move to Arizona. The husband reported his wife and three girls missing on April 27 when Mayes was helping them move.
Authorities said Mayes killed Jo Ann Bain, 31, and her oldest daughter, 14-year-old Adrienne, at their home that day, taking the two younger girls with him.
The bodies of the mother and older daughter were later found in shallow graves on property belonging to Mayes’ mother in the northern Mississippi town of Guntown last weekend.
The FBI had offered a $100,000 reward for Mayes, and on Wednesday placed him on the bureau’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List,” saying he ranked No. 1 on the list. The FBI reward was in addition to $71,000 already offered by other sources for Mayes’ capture and conviction.
Various state and local agencies including the game warden joined the pursuit, and they had previously combed the woods where Mayes was found, Edwards said. The site where Mayes shot himself is about 75 milessouth of the Tennessee town of Whiteville where the Bains lived.
According to court affidavits, Mayes’ wife, Teresa, told investigators that Adam Mayes’ intent was to take the two younger girls from their home. That motive led to the murders. Investigators declined to elaborate.
Both Adam and Teresa Mayes were earlier charged with first-degree murder and multiple counts of “especially aggravated kidnapping” for the abduction of the younger Bain girls. Mayes’ mother, Mary, is charged with four counts of conspiracy to commit especially aggravated kidnapping.
Mayes’ wife and mother were in Hardeman County Jail after being arrested on Sunday. A preliminary hearing for both is scheduled for May 22.
Additional reporting by Tim Ghianni in Nashville; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Eric Beech and Lisa Shumaker