Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Paul John Knowles: The Casanova Killer

Twelve Murders

Knowles was suspected in twelve murders at the time, including the two hitchhikers near Macon, the Carrs, Bates, Curtis, two killings in Jacksonville, and three more in Georgia.  They did not yet know just how widely he had traveled.  Once in custody, Knowles mentioned the tapes he had given to his attorney, which started a legal battle in which his attorney was cited for contempt.  Ellis Rubin arrived from New York in support, and Sandy Fawkes was called to a grand jury as well to describe what Knowles had told her about them - which was not much.  Yavitz spent some time in jail before relenting and turning over two packages of documents and tapes.  At first he would only say that while the tapes might have information relevant to the Carr double homicide with which Knowles was charged, they also provided a record of his activities in jurisdictions across the country.  Knowles had given him instructions that upon his death, all tapes and documents were to be revealed to the world "for the good of society." Yavitz later called Knowles the "most heinous murderer in history."  (There's little doubt that he regretted his involvement entirely.)

Paul John Knowles, profile
Paul John Knowles, profile

Knowles thoroughly enjoyed the fuss, saying that the only thing he would miss when executed would be seeing the police make fools of themselves.  He gave several media interviews, calling himself the "most successful member of my family."  The women who had been involved with him also gave interviews which, along with his good looks, contributed to his moniker, "the Casanova Killer."  Photographs showed him to be a devil-may-care type who exhibited a suave sophistication.

GBI agent Ron Angel
GBI agent Ron Angel

On December 18, 1974, Knowles was scheduled to be transferred to a more secure facility (Newton says a maximum-security prison, but others indicate that it was a county jail).  He told his captors that he would show them where he had dumped Charles Campbell's service revolver.  Along the way, he quietly picked his handcuffs with a bent paper clip.  Once he was free, he reached for the gun in the sheriff's holster, causing a struggle that discharged it and triggered a fast and lethal response from Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Ron Angel, who shot at Knowles three times. Just as Knowles had predicted to Sandy Fawkes only forty days earlier, he was killed on the spot in the back of the sheriff's car.  Some people speculated that it had been an outright execution staged to look like a struggle, but the wrecked car indicated that the story told was likely true.  After an investigation, it was ruled a justifiable shooting in self-defense.

Knowles was buried in Jacksonville, Florida, accompanied by a quiet service attended only by his family and Angela Covic, the woman who had rejected him.  Fawkes says that the minister refused to pray that his soul would rest in peace.    No one conducted an autopsy to see if a medical condition may have contributed to his sudden spate of brutal violence.  And, just as Knowles had hoped, Fawkes wrote about him.

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