Serial Killer: Paul John Knowles/ The Casanova Killer
Also known as the Casanova Killer, Knowles manipulated his allure into making victims believe him and later murder them. He murdered a total of 18 people, although the score might be more. His victims included men, women, and children. The man from Florida was finally murdered by an FBI agent in 1974 when he was attempting to escape.
With his devilish good looks, he brought a new definition to the term ‘lady killer.’
Paul John Knowles Was Smooth
To some women who met him, Paul John Knowles was smooth and charismatic, a “cross between Robert Redford and Ryan O’Neal.” To others, he was their terrible nightmare, a cold-blooded murderer with no pattern, and no regard for anyone but himself.
But for all that the ‘Casanova’ half of his title gave him a celebrity, it was the ’killer’ role he more deeply embraced, to the ultimate tragic ends of at least 18, and probably as many as 35 victims. Not much is documented about Knowles’ early life. He was born in Orlando, and while his murder left a bloody trail across the country, much of the arc of his life (and death) bent towards the area of Sun Belt towns and scrub wildernesses that permeate Georgia and North Florida.
Early brushes with crime and a life spent amidst foster homes ultimately led to jail at the age of 19. For the remainder of his short, brutal life, Knowles would spend roughly half of his life in some form of detention. By early 1974, he was detained in the notorious Raiford Prison, penned into modern folklore by North Florida rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd in “The Four Walls of Raiford”.
Knowles was engaged in a jail pen pal relationship with Angela Covic, a San Francisco divorcee. Something flourished between the two, and when Covic came to visit Knowles, he proposed for her hand in marriage. Her approval, and following legal efforts to fight Knowles’ imprisonment, led to Knowles’ release in May of 1974. The now-paroled Knowles disappeared directly to San Francisco to wed his fiancee.
We will never know what would have occurred if that ceremony had proceeded as schemed, because, on the advice of a psychic who warned her of a new brutal presence in her life, Covic broke up with Knowles. An anguished Knowles claims he murdered 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 prison by July, not two months after his release.
Lock On His Cell
Prison would not last long. Knowles picked the lock on his cell, fled, and started a hideously concentrated killing rampage that would last until November; by the numbers, Knowles ended up killing at least one new victim for each remaining week of his life.
Setting a terrifying precedent, Knowles engaged in a house invasion, breaking into the home of 65-year-old Alice Curtis, who he choked to death on her dentures. Knowles sacked the home 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 identified, Knowles abducted and strangled the sisters, then buried their corpses in a nearby swamp.
Evil begot more evil. The day after the sisters vanished, Knowles met 49-year-old Marjorie Howie in Atlantic Beach, Florida, and murdered her by choking her with her stockings. At some point, Knowles picked up and killed 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, was abducted, raped, and then choked with her pantyhose before being dragged through a barbed-wire fence.
In Milledgeville, Georgia: Carswell Carr invited Knowles to his home. He stabbed him, then choked his 15-year-old daughter to death, and subsequently attempted, and failed to engage in necrophilia with the body.
In Marlborough, Connecticut: Knowles broke into the house of Karen Wine, where he bound and raped her and her 16-year-old daughter Dawn. Both were later choked with stockings.
Near Lima, Ohio: 32-year-old William Bates vanished from a bar. Finally, his naked corpse was discovered in the woods. Police also found 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 abduct Susan MacKenzie, an acquaintance of Fawkes, who he tried to rape at gunpoint, but MacKenzie was able to flee.
On November 17, 1974, the car Knowles was driving was identified as stolen by Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Charles Eugene Campbell. When Campbell pulled Knowles over and tried to arrest him, the murderer 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 forests in Pulaski County, Georgia.
In the subsequent manhunt, Knowles tramped through woods and swampland, avoiding police, dogs, and helicopters, before he was caught outside of the police cordon by a civilian: a Vietnam veteran armed with a shotgun. Knowles eventually 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 tried to wrestle Lee’s firearm away, just as he had done with Charles Eugene Campbell (ironically, the trio were driving to the region where Knowles had dumped Campbell’s handgun). Angel unloaded three bullets into Knowles’ chest, murdering him instantly.
At the time of his death, at age 28, 18 killings had been tied to the Casanova Killer, although he claimed to have killed as many as 35 people …we will never really know, unfortunately