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, authorities told Reuters.
"The girls are safe. He is deceased," said FBI Special Agent Joel Siskovic.
The two girls, 12-year-old Alexandria Bain and her 8-year-old sister Kyliyah, were hungry but getting medical attention, according to Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards, who arrived on the scene while Mayes was still alive but fatally wounded.
"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 added.
Authorities described Mayes as a friend of the Bain family, but said the relationship went terribly wrong when the Bains announced a plan to 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.
AUTHORITIES RECEIVED TIP
Authorities, acting on a tip-off, tracked Mayes to a wooded area near a church in Mississippi, about 75 miles (120 km) south of the Tennessee town of Whiteville where the Bains lived, the FBI told a news conference.
"Officers immediately issued commands for Adam Mayes to show his hands. Mayes pulled a semi-automatic weapon from his waistband and shot himself in the head," said Aaron T. Ford, Special Agent In Charge of the FBI's Memphis division.
The two girls were found lying on the ground nearby, where they were "hungry, thirsty and dehydrated" and suffering from exposure and poison ivy, he added.
"They look like they've been in the woods for three days," Ford said.
He declined to say if the girls knew their mother and sister had been killed.
According to court affidavits, Mayes' wife, Teresa, told investigators he had intended to take the two younger girls from their home.
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, was 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.
Mayes was pronounced dead in 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 told Reuters.
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