Paul John Knowles
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|Paul John Knowles|
April 17, 1946|
Orlando, Florida, United States
|Died||December 18, 1974(aged 28)|
Cause of death
|Other names||The Casanova Killer
Lester Daryl Gates
Span of killings
|July 26, 1974–November 21, 1974|
|November 21, 1974|
Paul John Knowles (April 17, 1946 – December 18, 1974), also known as The Casanova Killer, was an American serial killer tied to the deaths of 18 people in 1974, though he claimed to have taken 35 lives.
Born in Orlando, Florida, his father gave him up to live in foster homes and reformatories after he was convicted of a petty crime. Knowles himself was first incarcerated at the age of 19, and in the years following, he spent more time in prison. In early 1974, Knowles was serving time at Raiford Prison in Florida (now known as Florida State Prison) when he began corresponding with a divorcee in San Francisco named Angela Covic, who made a trip to the prison to visit Knowles. Upon her arrival, Knowles proposed to Covic. After she accepted his proposal, she became instrumental in getting Knowles released from prison by paying for his legal counsel. Upon his release, Knowles flew directly to California to be with her. After a psychic warned her of the entry of a new dangerous man in her life, Covic ended the relationship and called off the wedding.
Although this has never been verified, Knowles claimed to have murdered three people on the streets of San Francisco the night that Covic broke off their relationship. Devastated by the rejection, Knowles returned to Jacksonville, Florida. He was soon arrested after stabbing a bartender during a fight, but he picked a lock in his detention cell and escaped on July 26, 1974.
Upon his release from prison, Knowles went on a murderous spree across the country, beginning in Jacksonville on the very same night of his escape. Knowles broke into the home of 65-year-old Alice Curtis. He tied her up and gagged her, then proceeded to search her home for money or other goods he could use or sell. Curtis later choked to death on her own dentures, though whether her death occurred while Knowles was there or after he left the residence is unknown.
Knowles also stole her Dodge Dart, but also realized that police had connected him to the crime and were advertising him as a wanted fugitive. On the street where he intended to abandon the car, he recognized family acquaintances Lillian and Mylette Anderson. Lillian was eleven years old and her sister Mylette was only seven. In fear that they would identify him, he kidnapped them both, strangled them, and buried their bodies in a nearby swamp. Their bodies were not recovered until five months later, in January, after Knowles had confessed to the crime. He did not abandon the Dodge Dart at that time. Soon after this, Knowles claimed to have picked up a teenage girl who was hitchhiking and killed her for an unknown reason: she remained unidentified for decades. On December 21, 2011, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation released a statement that she had been identified as 13-year-old Ima Jean Sanders who had ran away from Beaumont, Texas in July 1974 to Warner Robins, Georgia and had disappeared in August 1, 1974 from Warner Robins, Georgia.
The day after the Anderson sisters disappeared, August 2, 1974, Knowles met Marjorie Howie, 49, in Atlantic Beach, Florida. She either invited him or was forced by him to go to her apartment, where he strangled her with a nylon stocking. It is alleged that he stole her television set, which he later gave to a former girlfriend.
Near the end of August, Knowles showed up in Musella, Georgia, and forced his way into the home of Kathie Sue Pierce, who was there with her three-year-old son. Knowles used a cut telephone cord to strangle her in her bathroom, but left her child physically unharmed.
On September 3, 1974, Knowles entered Scott's Inn, a roadside pub near Lima, Ohio and met William Bates, a 32-year-old account executive for Ohio Power Company. The bartender, who knew Bates, recalled that Bates and a young redheaded man had several drinks that evening and left together. Bates' wife then reported him missing, and the police realized that his car was missing as well. Near the bar, police found an abandoned Dodge Dart that was subsequently traced back to Alice Curtis. In October, Bates' nude body was found. He had been strangled and dumped in the woods.
Now driving Bates' car, he moved on to a campground in Ely, Nevada, where on September 18, 1974 he bound and shot two elderly campers, Emmett and Lois Johnson. Because it was a seemingly random murder, there were no leads until Knowles later confessed to the crime, though he did use their credit cards for a short period to pay his expenses.
On September 21, 1974, Knowles' killing spree continued, this time in Seguin, Texas. There, he came upon stranded motorcyclist Charlynn Hicks, whom he abducted and raped before strangling her with her own pantyhose and dragging her body through a barbed-wire fence. Her body was found four days later.
Traveling then to Birmingham, Alabama, Knowles met beautician Ann Dawson on September 23, 1974. It is unclear as to whether he abducted her or if she traveled with him willingly, but she paid the bills while they traveled together until he killed her on September 29, 1974. Knowles claims to have dumped her body into the Mississippi River, but it was never recovered.
Knowles arrived in Marlborough, Connecticut in the middle of October, 1974, where he continued his vicious killing spree. He entered the home of Karen Wine and her 16-year-old daughter Dawn on October 16, where he bound and raped them, before killing them with a nylon stocking. The only thing found missing from their home was a tape recorder.
By October 18, Knowles had made his way to Woodford, Virginia, where he broke into the home of 53-year-old Doris Hosey and shot her to death with her husband's rifle, then wiped his prints from the gun and placed it beside her body. Afterward, police would find no signs of robbery to offer them a motive in the case.
Still driving William Bates' stolen car, Knowles picked up two hitchhikers in Key West, Florida with the intention of killing them both, but his plan went awry when a policeman stopped him for a traffic violation. Unaware of who he was dealing with, the officer let Knowles go with a warning. Shaken by the experience, Knowles had mercy on his victims and dropped them off in Miami, Florida and contacted his lawyer shortly thereafter. He rejected his lawyer's suggestion of surrender, but arranged a meeting with him that lasted only long enough to hand over a taped confession. He slipped out of town before police were informed of his presence.
On November 6, in Milledgeville, Georgia, Knowles befriended Carswell Carr and was invited back to Carr's house to spend the night. Over drinks, he stabbed Carr to death and then strangled Carr's 15-year-old daughter. After murdering the girl, Knowles attempted to engage in necrophilia with her corpse, but his attempts were unsuccessful. In the wake of his flight from Macon, Knowles was also suspected in the November 2 murder of hitchhiker Edward Hilliard, found in some nearby woods, and his companion Debbie Griffin, whose body has never been recovered.
While bar-hopping in Atlanta on November 8, Knowles met British journalist Sandy Fawkes, impressing her with his "gaunt good looks." They spent the night together, but, according to Fawkes, he was repeatedly unable to perform when they attempted to have sex over the next few days, suggesting possible impotence with a willing companion. They parted ways on November 10, but the next day Knowles picked up an acquaintance of Fawkes, Susan MacKenzie, and demanded sex from her at gunpoint. She escaped and notified police, but when patrolmen tried to stop him, Knowles brandished a sawed-off shotgun and made his escape.
Days later, in West Palm Beach, Florida, he invaded the home of invalid Beverly Mabee, where he abducted her sister and stole their car. From there, he traveled to Fort Pierce, Florida, arriving the following night. For reasons unknown, he dropped off his hostage without harm or incident.
On the morning of November 17, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Charles Eugene Campbell recognized the stolen car near Perry, Florida and attempted to make an arrest, but after he was pulled over, Knowles was able to wrestle the officer's pistol away from him. Taking Campbell hostage, he drove away in his patrol car, later using its siren to stop motorist James Meyer in order to ditch the Highway Patrol vehicle and continue in a less conspicuous automobile. Now burdened with two prisoners, Knowles took the two men into a remote, wooded area in Pulaski County, Georgia and handcuffed them to a tree before shooting each of them in the head at close range. Shortly thereafter, Knowles attempted to crash through a police roadblock in Henry County, Georgia, but he lost control of the vehicle and smashed into a tree. He escaped the vehicle on foot and fired shots at the pursuing officers. A chaotic footrace ensued, with Knowles pursued by dogs, law enforcement officers from several agencies, and helicopters. He was finally cornered by an armed civilian with a shotgun several miles from the focussed area of the search, who escorted Knowles to a nearby residence where a call to the police was made. Knowles was outside of the perimeter established for the manhunt and would have escaped if not for the actions of the local civilians. The maniacal crime spree of John Paul Knowles had come to an end.
Once in custody, Knowles claimed to be responsible for 35 murders, but only 18 were ever corroborated.
On December 18, 1974, Sheriff Earl Lee and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Ronnie Angel were traveling down I-20 with Knowles, who was handcuffed in the back seat. Their destination was Henry County, Georgia, where Knowles had, per a Georgia SBI press release, admitted to dumping a handgun he had taken from Florida State Trooper Charles Eugene Campbell, later killing him with the same weapon.
Given the publicity that surrounded this case, far outpacing any crime reported in Florida, Georgia and neighboring states for decades, Knowles' demise to many was a bit hard to swallow. That the Georgia SBI would send two officers, without backup in a vehicle without what was considered by that time standard faire for police vehicles, a hardened steel barrier screen between the front and back seat, and that the Georgia SBI reported that Knowles concealed a paperclip on his person that he used to pick the lock on his handcuffs, well, seemed.......
Once free the SBI reported, "Knowles grabbed Lee's handgun, discharging it through the holster in the process and while Lee was struggling with Knowles and attempting to keep control of the vehicle, Angel fired three shots into Knowles' chest, killing him instantly".
Protesting Knowles' fate, even by the most liberal media outlets, save his attorney who effectively declared Knowles was lynched, was nonexistent. The horrific crimes committed apparently euthanized any sense of country justice many might have thought at the time, deep down inside... gone awry. Ronnie Angel has refused to speak publicly about the incident since it occurred.
- Alice Curtis was a 65-year-old resident of Jacksonville, Florida. Knowles gagged her on July 26, 1974, while stealing her belongings. She choked to death on her gag.
- Lillian and Mylette Anderson, aged 11 and 7 respectively, were strangled early August 1974. Their bodies were found five months later, after confession.
- Marjorie Howe lived in Atlantic Beach, Florida. She was strangled with a nylon stocking. The motive, apparently, was that Knowles stole her television.
- Ima Jean Sanders was a 13 year old runaway from Beaumont, Texas whom Knowles picked up hitchhiking in Warner Robins, Georgia raped and strangled.
- Kathy Pierce was strangled with the cord of her telephone on August 23, 1974. Her three-year-old son, who was also present, remained unharmed.
- William Bates was murdered on September 3, after having shared some drinks with Knowles in Lima, Ohio. His body was not discovered until October. His car, money and credit cards were all taken by Knowles.
- Emmett and Lois Johnson were out camping in Ely, Nevada, where Knowles murdered both on September 18.
- Charlynn Hicks was killed on September 21. Her motorcycle broke down in Seguin, Texas. Knowles raped her before strangling her and dragging her body through some barbed wire.
- Ann Dawson, from Birmingham, Alabama, met Knowles on September 23. They traveled together for a while, until Knowles killed her on September 29. Her body was never found.
- Karen Wine and her 16 year old daughter, were killed on October 16. They were bound, raped, and strangled with a nylon stocking. They were discovered by Wine's older daughter Cheryl. A tape recorder was missing from their home.
- Doris Hovey was 53 years old and lived in Woodford, Virginia. She was shot to death by Knowles with her husband's rifle on October 19.
- Carswell Carr and his daughter met Knowles on November 6 in Milledgeville, Georgia, and invited him over to his house. Subsequently, Knowles stabbed Carr, who had a heart attack before Knowles strangled his daughter. He attempted to engage in necrophilia with her body, but failed.
- Edward Hilliard and Debbie Griffin were hitchhiking near Milledgeville, Georgia, on November 2. Hilliard's body was found in nearby woods, but Griffin's remains were never discovered. Knowles was not proven to have murdered them, but he was under strong suspicion.
- Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Charles Eugene Campbell was abducted while on patrol in Perry, Florida and shot by Knowles in Pulaski County, Georgia.
- James Meyer was a businessman whom Knowles took hostage along with Campbell. Knowles handcuffed them to a tree and shot them with the trooper's gun.
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- "Cold case solved: Girl, 13, was killed by serial killer in 1974". 21 December 2011.
- J.H.H. Gaute and Robin Odell, The New Murderer's Who's Who, 1996, Harrap Books, London
- Sandy Fawkes, Killing Time, 1977, Taplinger Publishing Co, London
- Sandy Fawkes, Natural Born Killer: In Love and on the Road with a Serial Killer, 2004, John Blake Publishing, London
- Georgina Lloyd, One was not enough, 1976, London
- More information from crimelibrary.com
- Trooper Campbell's page at the Officer Down Memorial Page
- John Paul Knowles article at skcentral.com