Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Paul John Knowles: The Casanova Killer

A Desperate Fugitive

Although he had allowed his first hostage to go free, there was no reason to believe he would do the same with the two men.  Knowles was now a desperate man, aware that he was being chased down and knowing that it was only a matter of time before he would be caught.  In fact, a gas station attendant in Lakeland, Georgia alerted the police to where they were, providing a valuable lead about the direction in which Knowles was going.  Two sheriff's deputies spotted the car the next day. Roadblocks were put into place around the area.

Knowles attempted to contact Fawkes, but she was away from the phone.  The police were hoping that he would tell her something or even try to arrange a meeting to seek her help, so everyone was disappointed that she had missed the call.  She was somewhat relieved, however.  Now that she knew who he was and what he had done, he frightened her.  Still, she was curious on one salient point: why had he not killed her?  Even as she stayed around people to feel protected, she wondered what would happen if she got him on the phone.  She did not know what she would say.  But she never got the chance to find out, because he never called again.

During this time of waiting, Fawkes learned more about the background of her transient companion.  Knowles was born on April 17, 1946 in Orlando, Florida, which made him 28 when he met her, not 33, as he had told her.  One can surmise that, given his sense of fate and his belief in his imminent demise, he identified himself with Jesus Christ.  In fact, his father was a carpenter, as Jesus' father was.  Why he said he was a New Mexico native is anyone's guess -- he had never lived there.  He had two older brothers and sisters.   Because of a petty crime when he was eight, at his father's wish, he had spent a lot of time during his childhood in foster homes and reformatories. Although he sometimes found work as a welder during his stints of freedom, he had several run-ins with the law for petty crimes such as burglary and stealing cars.  Newton says that his first arrest and prison sentence occurred when he was 19 (Frasier says 18) when he kidnapped a police officer who had stopped him for a traffic violation, and after that he averaged more than half of every year of the rest of his life in prison.

At one point, in 1970, he met a woman, corresponded with her, and decided to go straight, so he could get a job, marry her, and support her and her three children.   However, he found that with his prison record, it was difficult to find employment.  Frustration overcame him and he gave up, precipitating a breakup with the woman and further crimes.  (She later received stolen goods that Knowles had taken from one of his victims, and he stayed with her for a brief period during his 1974 murder spree.)  

He drifted from one state to another, mostly in the South.  Frasier quoted him as saying, "If I die tomorrow, it wouldn't matter that much."  He apparently just did whatever he felt like doing.  His lucky break came in the form of a woman who was vulnerable to his charm.


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