There’s no doubt Paul John Knowles was good looking – wavy hair, stubbly chin, and often a sexy cigarette dangling from his lips. Those who met him said he had a charming manner to go with his handsome face. But not all of those who met him survived.
The man who would become known as the Casanova Killer grew up shuffled between foster homes. By the age of 19, he had landed in prison for the first time; he would return there intermittently over the next nine years. After being arrested at 28 for stabbing a bartender, he escaped jail. He then went on to murder at least 18 people during a cross-country killing spree in 1974, most of them women ranging in age from seven to 65. Not surprisingly, he died a violent death.
Early brushes with crime and a life spent amidst foster homes eventually led to prison at the age of 19. For the rest of his short, violent life, Knowles would spend roughly half of his life in some form of incarceration. By early 1974, he was imprisoned in the infamous Raiford Prison, penned into modern folklore by North Florida rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd in “The Four Walls of Raiford”.
Knowles was engaged in a prison pen pal relationship with Angela Covic, a San Francisco divorcee. Something blossomed between the two, and when Covic came to visit Knowles, he proposed for her hand in marriage. Her acceptance, and subsequent legal efforts to fight Knowles’ imprisonment, led to Knowles’ release in May of 1974. The now-paroled Knowles fled directly to San Francisco to marry his fiancee.
We will never know what would have happened if that ceremony had proceeded as planned, because, on the advice of a psychic who warned her of a new violent presence in her life, Covic broke up with Knowles. A dejected Knowles claims he killed three people that night; while these murders cannot be corroborated, we do know he subsequently went back to Jacksonville, Florida, where he stabbed a bartender in a fight and found himself back in jail by July, not two months after his release.
Prison would not last long. Knowles picked the lock on his cell, escaped, and began a hideously concentrated killing spree that would last until November; by the numbers, Knowles ended up murdering at least one new victim for each remaining week of his life.
Setting a terrifying precedent, Knowles engaged in a home invasion, breaking into the house of 65-year-old Alice Curtis, who he choked to death on her own dentures. Knowles sacked the house and stole Curtis’ car. He wanted to ditch the vehicle, but on the way, he saw 11-year-old Lilian and 7-year-old Mylette Anderson. Convinced he had been recognized, Knowles kidnapped and strangled the sisters, then buried their bodies in a nearby swamp.
Evil begot more evil. The day after the sisters disappeared, Knowles met 49-year-old Marjorie Howie in Atlantic Beach, Florida, and killed her by strangling her with her own stockings. At some point, Knowles picked up and murdered a 13-year-old hitch-hiking runaway, Ima Jean Sanders.
Over the next few months, Knowles drifted, wandered, and murdered.
In Seguin, Texas: Charlynn Hicks, a stranded motorcyclist, who was kidnapped, raped, and then strangled with her own pantyhose before being dragged through a barbed wire fence.
In Milledgeville, Georgia: Carswell Carr invited Knowles to his house. He stabbed him, then strangled his 15-year-old daughter to death, and subsequently attempted, and failed to engage in necrophilia with the corpse.
In Marlborough, Connecticut: Knowles broke into the home of Karen Wine, where he bound and raped her and her 16-year-old daughter Dawn. Both were later strangled with stockings.
Near Lima, Ohio: 32-year-old William Bates disappeared from a bar. Eventually, his nude body was found in the woods. Police also discovered a Dodge Dart that once belonged to Alice Curtis.
In Atlanta, Knowles hit it off with British journalist Sandy Fawkes. The two spent the night together, but Knowles was unable to perform. He went on to kidnap Susan MacKenzie, an acquaintance of Fawkes, who he attempted to rape at gunpoint, but MacKenzie was able to escape.
On November 17, 1974, the car Knowles was driving was recognized as stolen by Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Charles Eugene Campbell. When Campbell pulled Knowles over and attempted to arrest him, the killer wrestled his gun away, commandeered the patrol car, and used the siren to pull over James Meyer and steal his car. Before he did so, Knowles took his two prisoners, Meyer and Officer Campbell, and executed them in a stretch of woods in Pulaski County, Georgia.
In the subsequent manhunt, Knowles tramped through woods and swamp land, avoiding police, dogs and helicopters, before he was captured outside of the police cordon by a civilian: a Vietnam veteran armed with a shotgun. Knowles ultimately refused to go quietly.
On December 18, 1974, while being transported by Sheriff Earl Lee and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Ronnie Angel in a car, Knowles attempted to wrestle Lee’s firearm away, just as he had done with Charles Eugene Campbell (ironically, the trio were driving to the area where Knowles had dumped Campbell’s handgun). Angel unloaded three bullets into Knowles’ chest, killing him instantly.
At the time of his death, at age 28, 18 murders had been tied to the Casanova Killer, although he claimed to have murdered as many as 35 people.
Featured Photo: Wikipedia; Other photos: Murderpedia