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  • On November 17th, 1974, Sandy Fawkes  was watching the evening news in a state  

  • of pure shock. Staring back at her from  TV was the charming and handsome man  

  • with whom she had recently had a  2-day whirlwind romantic fling.  

  • He had the same movie-star good looks and devilish  grin that had drawn her to him in the first place,  

  • and so she could see how he had earned the  nickname the media had given him - The Casanova  

  • Killer. The man she knew as Paul John Knowles  was really a vicious serial killer who had killed  

  • as many as 35 innocent men, women and children  over a 5 month period across 6 different states.  

  • Sandy now knew just how lucky she  was to have survived their encounter.

  • Paul John Knowles was born in Florida on April  14th, 1946, and as a young boy he began getting  

  • into trouble with the law for petty crimes. After  he was caught stealing at the tender age of 9, his  

  • father was fed up and decided he wanted nothing  to do with young Paul. He was disowned and given  

  • up for adoption, and would spend the rest of his  childhood years in reformatories and foster homes.  

  • Unsurprisingly, this did little to curb his  criminal tendencies, and the young Knowles  

  • would continue to steal, vandalize and generally  get himself into trouble with the law throughout  

  • his teens. His first true arrest happened at the  age of 19, and from that point on, Knowles would  

  • spend an average of half of each year in jail  for crimes ranging from burglary to auto theft.

  • By early 1974, Knowles was serving a prison  sentence in Florida's Raiford Prison when he  

  • found himself a new pen pal in Angela CovicAfter exchanging letters for months, Covic had  

  • fallen head over heels for Knowles. She travelled  from California to Florida to visit him in prison,  

  • and soon the two were engaged. She used her  meager savings to hire a lawyer who was able  

  • to successfully get parole for Knowles. Upon his  release, he immediately flew from Florida to San  

  • Francisco, where two planned to marry immediatelyHowever, just days before the wedding was set to  

  • take place, Covic called it off - she claimed  that Knowles had an aura of evil surrounding him,  

  • and that her psychic had warned her  about a dangerous new man in her life.  

  • Angela didn't know it at the time, but that  decision quite possibly saved her life.

  • Knowles did not take their broken  engagement well, to say the least.  

  • He would later claim that, on the night of their  breakup, he murdered 3 people in a blind rage,  

  • although investigators were never able  to corroborate his story. What they do  

  • know for sure, though, is that Knowles  flew back to Jacksonville, Florida,  

  • where he was jailed yet again after pickingfight in a local bar. If only that was the end  

  • of his story. Instead, on July 26th, 1974, the  veteran jailbird picked the lock on his cell  

  • and escaped from jail, setting off one of the  most brutal crime sprees in American history.

  • The very same night that he escaped from a holding  cell in Jacksonville, Knowles broke into the home  

  • of 65 year old Alice Curtis, gagging her and  tying her up while he ransaked her home looking  

  • for cash and valuables. Sadly, Curtis choked  to death on her own dentures, making her his  

  • first confirmed murder victim. Whether or not  he intended for her to die, her death seemed  

  • to unleash something truly evil in Knowles, and  kicked off a brutal, months-long murder spree.

  • Knowles spent a few days hiding out  in Curstis' home with her dead body,  

  • eating her food and watching her TV. When  he saw his own mug shot on the local news  

  • he realized he needed to get far away from  Jacksonville. Shortly after stealing Curtis' car,  

  • Knowles was driving through Jacksonville  looking for a place to drop the hot vehicle  

  • when he saw 11 year old Lilian Anderson and heryear old sister Mylette walking down the street.  

  • He recognized them as friends of his mother's andfearing that they may be able to identify him,  

  • he kidnapped the two young girls, strangled  them both, and dumped their bodies in a swamp  

  • outside of town before hitting the open  road. He had now killed 3 innocent people,  

  • and he knew that he needed to get  out of the area as soon as possible.

  • By the next day, Knowles was in Atlantic BeachFlorida, where he broke into the home of Marjorie  

  • Howe. This time, he wasted no time strangling  Howe with a nylon stocking before stealing her TV  

  • and getting back on the road. As he made his way  aimlessly North, Knowles strangled a hitchhiker  

  • that he had picked up, bringing his official  total to 5 victims in just a few short days.

  • After the murder of the hitchhiker Knowles appears  to have laid low for a few weeks, but before long,  

  • he would be back to his evil ways. On August 23rd,  1974, Knowles strangled Kathie Pierce in Musella,  

  • Georgia with a phone cord while her 3 year old  son looked on. Oddly, he left the boy unharmed.

  • On September 3rd, 1974, Knowles met  businessman William Bates in a bar in Lima,  

  • Ohio. After drinking together for  several hours, he strangled Bates,  

  • dumped his body in the woods, and  stole his money, credit cards and car.  

  • Bates was Knowles' first known male victimand his body wouldn't be found until October.

  • Knowles drove Bates' stolen car all the way  to Sacramento, before making his way back  

  • East through Utah and Nevada, where he murdered  campers Emmet and Lois Johnson near Ely, Nevada  

  • on September 18th. 3 days later, Knowles assaulted  and murdered a female motorist who was stranded on  

  • the side of the road, leaving her body tangled in  a barbed wire fence. On September 23rd, Knowles  

  • met beautician Ann Dawson in Birmingham, AlabamaThe two travelled together for a few days,  

  • until Knowles grew bored of her. He killed her on  September 29th, but her body would never be found.

  • After brutally murdering at least  10 people across 5 different states,  

  • Knowles once again laid low for a few weeksBut it was only a matter of time before the  

  • urge to kill became unbearable. On  October 19th in Woodford Virginia,  

  • Knowles shot 53 year old Doris Hovey in her home  with her husband's rifle. This time, he did not  

  • assault or even rob Hovey. Clearly, his lust  for blood was all that mattered to Knowles, now.

  • Shortly after the murder of Hovey, Knowles  picked up 2 more hitchhikers. He planned to  

  • kill the pair, but before he could he was stopped  by police in a stolen car for a routine traffic  

  • violation. The careless cop let him off with  a warning, but the experience rattled Knowles.  

  • After dropping off the hitchhikers he  contacted a lawyer and confessed to his  

  • crimes. The lawyer recommended that Knowles  turn himself in, but he refused. Instead,  

  • he allegedly taped a confession and handed it over  to the lawyer before skipping town once again.  

  • He instructed the lawyer to make the  tape public in the event of his death,  

  • and insisted that any proceeds  from his story go to his mother.

  • Despite his close call, Knowles was unable to stop  himself from continuing to kill. On November 6th,  

  • in Macon, Georgia, he met and befriended Carswell  Carr. Carr took pity on Knowles, who he took for  

  • a drifter, and invited him to spend the night  at his home. Over drinks, Knowles stabbed Carr  

  • to death and then strangled Carr's 15 year old  daughter. After fleeing this murder, Knowles  

  • may have killed hitchhikers Edward Hilliard and  Debbie Griffen, but their bodies were never found.

  • On November 8th, Knowles was bar hopping in  Atlanta, Georgia, when he met British journalist  

  • Sandy Fawkes. Fawkes recalls being infatuated with  Knowles' gaunt good looks and his resemblance to  

  • movie star Robert Redford. The two spent the night  together, although Knowles was unable to do the  

  • deed, so to speak. Over the next 2 days, after  repeated failed attempts at intimate relations,  

  • the pair separated on good terms on November  10th. Fawkes had no idea at the time just how  

  • lucky she was to escape with her life, but she  would later say that she suspects that he let  

  • her live because, as a writer, she would be able  to spread his story and increase his notoriety.

  • The day after separating from Fawkes, Knowles  made his first big mistake. He attempted to  

  • kidnap Susan MacKenzie, a friend of Fawkes',  and assaulted her at gunpoint. Amazingly,  

  • she escaped and reported Knowles to the policeOfficers now had a name to link to the rash of  

  • mysterious killings, and tracked Knowles down and  pulled him over. Knowles was prepared, though,  

  • and he managed to escape by brandishing  a sawed-off shotgun. Days later, Knowles  

  • was back in Florida. After murdering Beverly  Mabee in West Palm Beach, he abducted Mabee's  

  • sister and stole her car. The next night, he  released Mabee in Fort Pierce, Florida unharmed.

  • On November 16th, 1974, a Florida State Trooper  recognized the stolen car that Knowles was driving  

  • and pulled him over. However, Knowles was ready  for him - he took the officer hostage at gunpoint,  

  • put him in the back of the police carand took off in the stolen cruiser.  

  • Realizing that a stolen police car was  incredibly obvious, Knowles used the  

  • cruiser to pull over another innocent motoristAfter kidnapping the driver, James Meyer, he put  

  • both hostages in the back of Meyers' vehicleand drove out into the woods of Pulaski County,  

  • Georgia. There, he handcuffed the men to a tree  and shot them both in the head at close range.

  • The blatant murder of a police officer would  spell the beginning of the end for Knowles.  

  • Just hours later, Knowles approached a police  roadblock that had been erected to capture him.  

  • With no other options, Knowles crashed  his stolen car through the barrier,  

  • lost control of the vehicle  and crashed into a tree. An  

  • injured Knowles then escaped on foot into the  woods, firing shots at officers as he fled.

  • Knowles was pursued by officers from several  agencies armed with dogs and a helicopter,  

  • but in the end he would meet his downfall at the  hands of a civilian. 27-year old David Clark,  

  • a Vietnam veteran and avid hunter, spotted Knowles  in the woods several miles away from the official  

  • search area on November 17th. Seeing that  Knowles was bleeding from a wound on his head,  

  • the suspicious hunter cornered Knowles with  his shotgun and held him at a neighbor's home  

  • until police arrived, finally putting  an end to his vicious murder spree.

  • Once in custody, Knowles claimed to have murdered  more than 35 people between July and November of  

  • 1974, though police were only able to verify 18  of his murders. On November 18th, the day after  

  • his capture, Knowles was being transferred tomaximum security facility when he made one last  

  • desperate bid for freedom. He made a grab for  the sheriff's revolver, which went off during  

  • the scuffle, prompting FBI agent Ron Angel to  shoot Knowles 3 times at point blank range,  

  • killing him instantly. The Casanova Killer  had met his own brutal and final end.

  • Even after Knowles' death, the police and  the public remained fascinated by his crimes.  

  • His movie-star good looks, charisma and devilish  smirk endeared him to his victims and earned  

  • him his nickname, the Casanova Killer. His  constant movement criss-crossing the country  

  • and the fact that he murdered victims indifferent states made it harder for police  

  • to link his various murders to a single killerThere appeared to be no pattern to his victims,  

  • and he indiscriminately killed men  and women, children and adults.  

  • Knowles also had no consistent M.O., stabbing some  victims, strangling others and shooting the rest.  

  • Some were assaulted and robbed, while others were  simply killed for no apparent reason. By the time  

  • police connected the seemingly random crimes to  a single killer, it was too late for his victims.

  • His death in custody at the hands of the FBI  meant Knowles would never have to explain the  

  • motivations for his crimes in court. The taped  confession he had left with his lawyer may have  

  • been the key to unlocking the Casanova Killer's  motives, but sadly, the tapes were allegedly  

  • destroyed when the courtroom where they were being  stored was damaged by a flood. The lawyer who  

  • received the tapes from Knowles claims not to have  listened to them before they were destroyed, and  

  • refuses to speculate on Knowles motives, standing  by his commitment to client confidentiality.

  • Perhaps his traumatic childhood and his father's  abandonment set the stage for Knowles to go on  

  • to become a killer. Maybe the heartbreak of his  broken engagement prompted him to graduate from  

  • petty crime to vicious murder. Or, maybe, his  motive was simply to gain notoriety and fame  

  • for his brutal crimes. The fact that he let  journalist Sandy Fawkes go free and unharmed,  

  • and the fact that his murders seemed  to be crimes of opportunity rather  

  • than targeted killings, appear  to add credence to this theory,  

  • but we'll never know for sure why  Paul John Knowles was driven to kill.

  • If you thought serial killers from the 70s  were bad, be sure and check out this video,  

  • calledWhy This Generation Will Have  More Serial Killers Than Ever”. Or,  

  • perhaps this other video will  be a little less unnerving.

On November 17th, 1974, Sandy Fawkes  was watching the evening news in a state  

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America's Worst Serial Killers - The Casanova Killer

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