GUNTOWN, Miss. (AP) — Hope was fading that two young sisters abducted from their Tennessee home would be found alive two weeks after they vanished: Their kidnapper had already killed their mother and sister, and he was armed with a pistol as officers closed in.
Yet 12-year-old Alexandria and 8-year-old Kyliyah Bain went home to their father Friday alive, with no apparent injuries other than being tired, scared and itchy from poison ivy. They told the officers who found them that they had not had food or water for three days, said Mississippi Highway Patrol Master Sgt. Steve Crawford.
Beverly Goodman, the aunt of the slain mother, Jo Ann Bain, said she was relieved the girls were home but still saddened by the killings of Bain and Bain's 14-year-old daughter Adrienne.
"He's been missing for so long. How do you hide out from 350 million people?" Goodman said. "I thought they were going to find them dead — the girls and him — so I am very, very relieved that those girls are home and they're not dead, like I figured they were gonna be."
At one point, Mayes had claimed to be the girls' father. That may be why he spared them, one criminologist said. It also may be that while he wanted to escape prosecution, he didn't believe the girls were better off dead. And he was close to the family, described as an uncle-like figure who smiled cheek-to-cheek with the girls in Facebook photos.
"He probably developed an attachment to them, and even the most vicious of killers can separate the world into people they care about, people they detest and people they don't care about," said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University.
Authorities said Mayes, 35, killed Jo Ann Bain and 14-year-old Adrienne on April 27 in Whiteville, Tenn. Mayes' wife, Teresa Mayes, is charged with murder in the killings. She told investigators she saw her husband kill the mother and oldest girl, then drove him, the younger children and the bodies to Mississippi, according to court documents. His mother, Mary Mayes, also is charged in the kidnapping but maintains she is not guilty.
Adam Mayes was hiding out with the girls in the woods just miles from his home in Mississippi, and some 90 miles from where the sisters were kidnapped in Tennessee. The area is frequented by hunters and dotted with deer hunting stands and other wood structures that one law enforcement official said may have been used for shelter.
An officer combing through the area spotted Alexandria Bain face down on the ground Thursday evening about 100 yards behind a church. They also saw the younger girl and Mayes prone on the ground. Officers yelled for Mayes to show his hands, but he got to his knees, pulled a 9mm pistol from his waistband and shot himself in the head, said Aaron T. Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI's Memphis, Tenn., office. Mayes did not say anything before shooting himself, and he did not brandish the gun toward the girls or officers.
The girls only sat up and stayed in place when Mayes shot himself, said Lt. Lee Ellington with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.