GUNTOWN, Miss. — Dirty, dehydrated and starving, itching all over with poison ivy and bug bites, 12-year-old Alexandra Bain and her 8-year-old sister Kyliyah Bain lay face-down in a remote swath of northern Mississippi woods — their kidnapper by their side.
Thirteen days earlier, authorities say the girls were abducted from their Whiteville, Tennessee, home by Adam Mayes after he strangled their mother and 14-year-old sister to death.
And for the last three days, Alexandria and Kyliyah had nothing to eat or drink.
Their weary, young bodies were prone, right along with Mayes, around dusk Thursday near a logging road in an area populated with deer and an occasional hunter, but little else.
Then a state officer — one of scores of law enforcement agents who had been working round-the-clock trying to locate Mayes and the Bain sisters — yelled out, “Get your hands up.”
One girl picked her head up, soon followed by the other. Mayes himself then began to raise his head, all the while holding a 9 mm pistol.
“I hollered ‘Gun!’ three times to let my team know that there was a weapon involved,” recalled Master Sgt. Steve Crawford, head of the Mississippi Highway Patrol’s special operations unit.
“Then he raised to his knees, never brandished a gun toward any of us or the children, and at that time took his own life.”
That single gunshot wound to the head ended a manhunt that spanned several states and involved about 24 law enforcement agencies, said FBI special agent in charge Daniel McMullen. It also captivated the nation, rocketing Mayes from obscurity to a spot on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list practically overnight.
And most of all, it tore apart a family — leaving two young girls motherless, but alive.
“This was a case that we knew had national implications and concerns,” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said at a press conference Friday in Jackson, one of several officials who shed light on what happened the day earlier in Union County. “We knew also that two victims … lives had been lost. And we wanted to find out why.”
For all the new details provided, many questioned remained. Chief among them — and one that may never be fully answered, with Mayes dead — is why he did what he did.
The two people who may know best, young Alexandria and Kyliyah, ideally can “shed some light” whenever they “get to where they can speak, when they calm down,” said state Department of Public Safety Albert Santa Cruz.
But for now, authorities say they are just relieved that the girls are safe.
After the sisters got a drink of water Thursday night after their rescue, they were quickly whisked away by ambulance with two female agents, said FBI spokesman Jason Pack.
Then, some time between 2 and 5 a.m. Friday, they were released from Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, hospital spokeswoman Sara Burnett said.
“A lot of prayers were answered when we found these two young ladies to be safe,” said Lt. Lee Ellington, a state Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Parks officer who was on site when Mayes committed suicide and the girls were rescued.
“At the end of the day, the two young ladies returned home to their father safely, as did all officers.”
The saga began April 27, when Jo Ann Bain’s husband Gary called police to report that his wife and three daughters were missing from their Tennessee home.
The Bain and Mayes families are connected through Gary and his former wife Pamela, who is Adam Mayes’ sister, explained Shana Johnson, a lawyer for Adam Mayes’ mother-in-law Josie Tate.
Tate told HLN’s Nancy Grace on Thursday that Adam Mayes believed the two girls he allegedly abducted “are his children.”
Police said that Adam Mayes’ wife Teresa Mayes told police she was in the Bains’ garage when her husband killed Jo Ann Bain and her eldest daughter, Adrienne Bain. According to the law enforcement source, the two were strangled.
Johnson, Teresa Mayes’ attorney, said Thursday that her client last saw Mayes and the Bain girls in Mississippi on April 27.
Along with her late husband, Teresa Mayes was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping. He had faced an additional count of making a false report, according to arrest affidavits filed in Tennessee.
In affidavits, investigators said the Mayeses drove the bodies of Jo Ann and Adrienne Bain to Union County in northern Mississippi, where they were discovered Saturday in a shallow grave behind the house of Adam Mayes’ mother in Guntown.
It was then that an Amber Alert was issued, seeking the public’s help in tracking down the girls and Adam Mayes.
The FBI initially noted Mayes had connections to Arizona, Texas, Florida and the Carolinas. Still, they said their main focus remained in Mississippi — even after the number of tips spiked, from all over the country, after Mayes’ inclusion on the FBI’s “most wanted” list earlier this week.
“He had family there, he had friends there, and that area was the last area where (Mayes) was seen,” said FBI special agent McMullen, noting a witness reported seeing the suspect there on May 1. “So that’s what kept us there, that’s what kept the pressure up on that area, and I think that was critical to this ending.”
By Thursday, the reward for information leading to Mayes’ arrest stood at $175,000. The tip that ultimately led authorities to him and the girls was not that anyone spotted them, but that an old log cabin behind a church might be a good hiding place.
It is a “very good possibility” that tipster may take home that reward, Bryant said.
In addition to Teresa Mayes, three additional arrests have been made in connection with the case, a law enforcement source told CNN. One person was arrested for making a false statement and two others for illegal possession of a firearm, the source said.
The identities of the individuals were not immediately known, but it included the person who provided Mayes with the gun he used to shoot himself, the source said.
While there was some closure Thursday night, officials have stressed the investigation is ongoing. And that means authorities may try to hold more people accountable for what happened to the Bain family.
“That effort goes on, and additional arrests are possible,” Bryant said.
Credit: CNN. CNN’s Rich Phillips and Joe Sutton, and HLN’s Natisha Lance, Mike Brooks and Josey Crews contributed to this report.