Known for his good looks, Paul John Knowles has been described as "a cross between Robert Redford and Ryan O'Neal".
YouTubePaul John Knowles, also known as Casanova's killer.
To some of the women who knew him, Paul John Knowleshe was soft and charismatic, a "cross between Robert Redford and Ryan O'Neal". To others, he was his worst nightmare, a cold-blooded killer with no patron and no respect for anyone but himself.
For decades, Knowles traversed the country racking up a slew of criminal charges, including kidnapping and robbery. Then, in 1974, he escalated, adding murder to his ever-growing list of crimes.
Paul John Knowles our den Morden
In the 19 short years between 1946 and 1965, Paul John Knowles had made a name for himself in the police force. In 1954, when he was only eight years old, Knowles had embarked on a life of crime that consisted mainly of petty theft. When he was 19 years old, he turned to kidnapping and was jailed for kidnapping a police officer.
However, he was soon released and began a pattern that he would maintain for the next eight years; short jail terms followed by a return to misdemeanor followed by a short jail term.
In early 1974, Knowles was serving a sentence in Florida's Raiford Prison, now known as Florida State Prison. During his incarceration, he began corresponding with a California woman named Angela Covic.
Covic, a recently divorced San Francisco cocktail waitress, was thrilled to have Knowles as a pen pal and fell for him after just a few letters. A short time later, she hired a lawyer for him, who managed to get her paroled and arranged for him to fly to San Francisco to marry her.
Wikimedia CommonsPaul John Knowles smoking a cigarette in a photograph taken before his arrest.
However, upon seeing Knowles, Covic called off the wedding. According to her, Knowles projected "an aura of fear" that scared her. In addition to her aura, her psychic had recently warned her of a dangerous new man in her life. The aura combined with her warning was enough for Covic to send Knowles home.
Psychic babble or not, in the end Covic was lucky to take his fortune teller's advice and pay attention to Knowles' aura.
That night, after Covic ended their engagement, Knowles murdered three strangers on the streets of San Francisco. The next day, he returned to Jacksonville, Florida, where he stabbed a bartender with a knife during a fight. He was arrested for fighting in a bar and put back in jail, but he didn't stay there long.
On July 26, 1974, Paul John Knowles picked the lock on his cell and escaped into the night.
The Casanova Murders
Alice Curtis, 65, was the first victim of Paul John Knowles. The retired Jacksonville school teacher was home alone the night Knowles escaped from prison.
In an attempt to break into her home, Knowles broke in, tied her up and gagged her. It was later determined that her cause of death was choking on her own false teeth, and while it is unclear if her death occurred while Knowles was at her home, there is no doubt that he was at fault.
Knowles fled the house in Curtis's car. A few hours later, as she was driving down the street looking for a place to leave the stolen vehicle, she came across two girls, Lillian and Mylette Anderson. He recognized them as family acquaintances and quickly realized that they could recognize him too. Rather than abandon Curtis's car, he kidnapped 11-year-old Lillian and her seven-year-old sister, strangled them and dumped their bodies in a swamp.
Over the next two months, Knowles traveled up the East Coast from Florida to Connecticut, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Laterknown as the "Casanova murders".To Knowles's good looks, the police remained largely in the dark about Knowles' involvement in the murders until his arrest. More often than not, the police were baffled by the murders, as they seemed to have no rhyme or reason behind them. It seemed there was no pattern between any of the cases or even any of the victims.
Of the 20 dead, 14 were women and six were men. Three were children and three were elderly. Some were shot, some were strangled, some were robbed, and some appeared to have been killed afterward, killed while camping or walking the streets. Some of the bodies had been sexually assaulted, while some of the victims had been raped while alive, further confusing the police.
Victims were also killed in at least six different states, making it nearly impossible for police to establish a perimeter. At the time, the police didn't know if they were looking for a rapist, a murderer, a gunman, an opportunist or worse, all of those.
The only real lead authorities needed to follow up on came from a reporter named Sandy Fawkes. About two weeks before Knowles was finally arrested, he tried to pick up Fawkes at a hotel bar. For three days, Fawkes toured with Knowles, drunk and blissfully unaware that she was fraternizing with the man at the center of a multi-state manhunt.
According to Fawkes, Knowles was a "ship of dreams". It was she who first described him as looking similar to Redford years after realizing how close she had come to becoming one of her victims. But as close as she was, she didn't really notice. Not once during her three-day curve did he show any signs of wanting to hurt her, she claimed, and after the two paths parted, Fawkes thought she remembered her time fondly.
Most people believe that the reason Knowles let Fawkes go was because he wanted fame, at least in part, a theory borne out by the survival of Barbara Tucker, another writer who escaped his wrath. She perhaps felt that the writers would make him immortal and that if they told his story, he might come out in a blaze of glory instead of the criminal end she received.
YouTubePaul John Knowles' mugshot.
a vicious arrest
On November 17, a Florida Highway Patrol officer named Charles Eugene Campbell recognized a car matching the description of a car stolen from the latest murder victim. He stopped the car, not realizing that he had just cornered a cunning and skilled mass murderer.
However, Paul John Knowles was ready. As the officer leaned over to look inside the car, Knowles took the gun from him. After taking Campbell hostage, he drove off in Campbell's patrol car and stopped another car. He then captured that driver, put him and Campbell in the least conspicuous vehicle, and took all three to a remote area.
He then led the two men into the woods, tied them to a tree, and shot them dead. While trying to flee the scene, he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a tree. Although he fled on foot and was pursued by dogs, officers, and helicopters, he eventually made it out of the perimeter established for the pursuit.
However, thanks to a local and his shotgun, Knowles was arrested. After his arrest, he confessed to 35 murders, including 20 already known to police.
Over the next month, the police attempted to take Knowles on a tour of the crime scenes to obtain information about the crimes and help locate the missing bodies. On December 18, just a month after her arrest, Sheriff Earl Lee and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Ronnie Angel transported Knowles to Henry County, where they allegedly dumped Charles Campbell's gun.
On the way, Knowles jumped into Lee's car and tried to steal his gun. The gun pierced the car cover, and as Lee and Knowles fought, Angel shot Knowles three times, killing him instantly.
And so the turbulent life of Paul John Knowles ended as cruelly as he had lived it. The motives behind the murders of him have never been revealed, and even today some of the victims remain a mystery.
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