Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Paul John Knowles: The Casanova Killer

Lethal Legacy

While Knowles may or may not have started to kill while in San Francisco after Covic rejected him, many writers, including Fawkes, indicate that his first traceable murder took place in Georgia, shortly after he escaped from prison.  The date was July 26, 1974.  On the tapes, heard only by a judge and Georgia grand jury (although transcripts were later leaked), he describes how he got out and then discusses what he recalls of fourteen separate murders (some of which were double homicides).  On the night of his escape, Knowles entered the home of an elderly woman, 65-year-old Alice Curtis.  He tied her up while he went through her home looking for money and things he could use.  Frasier writes that he left her that way and, because of the gag, she choked to death on her dentures (but at least one writer indicates that he realized before he left that she had died).

According to Newton, Knowles fled the scene in her Dodge Dart, using it for less than a week before he decided to dump it after realizing that the police had connected him to the crime and had posted his picture in the media as a wanted fugitive.   On the street where he was going to abandon it, he noticed two sisters who knew his family, so he kept the car and kidnapped them.  Lillian Anderson was eleven and her sister Mylette was only seven.  Because they could identify him, he strangled them both and buried their bodies in a swamp.  They were not found until five months later, in January, after Knowles had revealed the crime. 

The day after the girls disappeared, on August 2, Knowles met Marjorie Howie, 49, in Atlantic Beach, Florida.  She either invited him or was forced by him to go to her apartment, where he strangled her with a nylon stocking.  Newton says that he stole her television set (and then gave it to a former girlfriend).  Soon afterward, Knowles indicated on the tapes, he picked up a teenage girl who was hitchhiking and killed her as well.  This girl's identity is unknown, but Knowles said that he killed her just for sport.  It's not clear if the murder was sexually motivated.

Toward the end of August, Knowles showed up in Musella, Georgia, and forced his way into the home of Kathie Sue Pierce, who was there with her three-year-old son.  Knowles used a cut telephone cord to strangle her in her bathroom, but did nothing to the child.  Then he left the South and went roving.  His next murder occurred in Ohio.

He entered a roadside pub, Scott's Inn, near Lima on September 3 and met William Bates, a thirty-two-year-old account executive for Ohio Power Company.  The bartender, who knew Bates, recalled that Bates and a young redheaded man had several drinks that evening and left together.  Bates' wife then reported him missing , and the police realized that his car was missing as well.  Near the inn, an abandoned Dodge Dart was traced back to Alice Curtis. In October, Bates' body turned up, nude, strangled and dumped in the woods.

But the killer hadn't finished.  In Bates's car, he moved on to California (calling Covic again), Utah, and Nevada, where in Ely he bound and shot two elderly campers, Emmett and Lois Johnson, on September 18.  Because it was a random murder, there were no leads until Knowles later confessed, although he used their credit cards for a while to pay his expenses.  In Texas, he raped and killed a stranded female motorist (Frasier and Fawkes say she had stopped to admire the sunset), Charlynn Hicks, using her pantyhose to strangle her and then dragging her through a barbed-wire fence.  Her body was found four days later.

Then he met a woman with whom he kept company for a while.  Apparently Fawkes was not the only one he played this game with, but Fawkes was the lucky survivor, probably because she left him before Knowles himself did anything.  He apparently tried to find Fawkes again but was unsuccessful, so it's not clear what he might have done.  With beautician Ann Dawson, 49, whom he met in Birmingham, Alabama, he traveled for a few days, letting her pay the bills, until he decided it was time to conclude their arrangement.  Although she went missing and was never found, Frasier writes that Knowles claimed later that he had killed her and dumped the body into the Mississippi River.  It was now the end of September, and he was still not finished.


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