(GUNTOWN, Miss.) -- A small blonde child peeking over a ridge and spotted by Mississippi state highway troopers led to the rescue of Alexandria and Kyliyah Bain, ages 12 and 8, from kidnapper Adam Mayes on Thursday night, police said in a news conference Friday.
Moments later, Mayes -- kneeling in the grass next to the children -- shot himself in what his mother-in-law called the "coward's way out."
"We saw something lying down by the wood line that caught our attention. We took another five steps, and I gazed around and saw one of the children. An officer started hollering, 'Get your hands up,'" said Master Sgt. Steve Crawford at a news conference Friday.
The highway patrol and state fish and wildlife officers were searching the wooded area for a cabin that they were told Mayes, 35, may have been hiding in with the two girls he kidnapped two weeks earlier from their home in Tennessee.
Mayes is also suspected of killing the girls' sister, Adrienne, 14, and mother, JoAnn, 37, in order to kidnap the younger girls, whom he thought were his children, relatives have said. The girls had been living with JoAnn and her husband, Gary Bain, and the family was planning to move to Arizona at the end of the school year.
As police searched for the cabin Thursday night, they caught sight of one girl and then another and, finally Mayes' head popped up.
"All three were lying face down on the ground trying to take cover," Crawford said.
The girls slowly raised their hands at the officers' command, but Mayes raised only one hand, the officer said.
"Mayes raised his hand and I could see the gun. I hollered 'gun' three times to let my team know, and then Mayes got on his knees. He never brandished the gun toward us, but at that time he took his life," Crawford said.
The girls, who had been in the forest without food or water for three days, were "eaten up with poison ivy and insect bites," another officer said. He said they were shaken and unable to speak much, but didn't cry.
"When these children get to where they can speak, and calm down, I'm sure we'll find out" more details, a police spokesman said.
The girls were brought to a hospital in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday night and released to their father after treatment.
Police have not said whether the $71,000 reward offered for Mayes' capture would be handed out to anyone, but noted that police were searching the wooded area not far from Mayes' home because of a tip received from the public.
Josie Tate, whose daughter was married to Mayes, blasted him for leaving his wife to be charged for killing the kidnapped girls' mother and older sister. Her daughter, Teresa Mayes, is charged with the killing JoAnn and Adrienne Bain on April 27 and then taking the bodies and Bain's youngest two daughters to Mississippi. Mayes then went on the run with the girls, skyrocketing to the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted List until he was located on Thursday.
Teresa Mayes is being held in a Tennessee jail.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio