Two kidnapped Tennessee girls were released from a Memphis hospital Friday morning, apparently safe and healthy after a two-week ordeal that left their mother and a sister dead and prompted an intense manhunt for the suspect. That suspect, Adam Mayes, killed himself Thursday as authorities closed in on the area around a rural Mississippi church where he had sought sanctuary.
“They’re doing fine,” Sara Burnett, a spokeswoman for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, said in a telephone interview. The girls, Alexandria Bain, 12, and Kyliyah Bain, 8, were evaluated overnight and released to their family in good condition. “This is wonderful news,” Burnett said.
The sisters apparently were the objects of an obsession by Mayes, 35, who thought he was their father, according to his former in-laws. After two weeks on the run, Mayes ended his life with a pistol shot to the head in an area about a mile from his mother’s Guntown, Miss., house.
The bodies of Jo Ann Bain, 31, and her eldest daughter, Adreienne, 14, had been found at the home days before; they were killed April 27 in their Tennessee home, some 80 miles away, authorities said.
“We are very relieved at this event tonight,” Aaron T. Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI's Memphis, Tenn., office., told reporters at an early Friday news conference. “We have two little girls that we can return to Tennessee to their family.”
Even with Mayes dead, state and federal authorities will continue to investigate the incident, FBI spokesman Joe Siskovic said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times. Still to be decided is who will receive the $171,000 in reward money offered for the capture of Mayes, who was briefly on the agency’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list.
There are also questions about whether Mayes had help staying away from authorities and surviving in the outdoors, he said.
The odyssey began in rural western Tennessee, in Hardeman County, where the Bain family lived. Mayes was a close family friend, one who told people he was actually more -- the father of some of the children.
Mayes' former mother-in-law, Josie Tate, had told reporters that Mayes thought he was the father and that it caused problems with his marriage to Teresa Mayes. Speaking Friday on NBC's “Today” show, Tate said she did not think the girls were actually Adam Mayes' daughters. She called him a “control freak” and said she fears for her daughter, now facing felony charges in Tennessee.
“I'm scared about what will happen to my daughter, that she will have to take the brunt of the punishment,” Tate said. “If she participated in any way, it was because she was too scared to stand up to Adam or she was brainwashed.”
Whether Adam Mayes was the father of any of the Bain children will likely be a matter of speculation, but most people agree he was obsessed with the younger girls and wanted them to live with him.
According to Mayes’ ex-wife, Teresa, Mayes killed Jo Ann Bain, the mother, after fighting with her about the children, then killed the eldest daughter. Teresa Mayes, who faces murder and kidnapping charges, told investigators she helped transport the corpses and the two surviving girls back to Guntown, Miss. There, the bodies were buried in a shallow grave in the backyard of the house of Mary Mayes, Adam Mayes’ mother.
Mary Mayes is also in jail, charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
Once back in Mississippi, Adam Mayes seems to have gone to ground in the area he knew best, the densely wooded and shrub-laden sea of verdant green Mississippi backwoods. He was seen at the end of April in a surveillance video taken in a convenience store near his mother’s property, where he and his ex-wife also occasionally lived.
Officials were still investigating the details of Mayes’ time on the run, but it was a tip to the command post on Thursday that set off the last act, Siskovic said.
Once the tip came in, officials contacted a special unit of the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks, officers who were experts with search and rescues in difficult terrain, Siskovic said.
“We reached out to them and brought in their skills,” Siskovic said. “It is a heavily wooded area like most of the area out that way; thick with brush and timber in uneven terrain. It is not great conditions.”
The area is behind the Zion Hill Baptist Church, about a mile or so from the Mayes’ residence in Guntown, he said. Mayes and the girls had apparently been living in a wooden structure in the woods.
Shortly before 7 p.m. on Thursday, officers made first contact when they saw Alexandria Bain, Ford told reporters Friday morning. Officers shouted for Mayes to show his hands, but he pulled a semiautomatic pistol from his waistband and shot himself in the head, Ford said.
Law enforcement officers moved in to rescue the girls, who were lying on the ground. Ford said they looked as if they had been in the woods for two or three days and were suffering from exposure, dehydration and poison ivy, but were otherwise safe.
“They were immediately given water as they were escorted to safety,” Ford said.
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