Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Paul John Knowles: The Casanova Killer

A Unique Serial Killer

Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy

Indeed it was.  No journalist has ever had such an experience - a week up close and personal with a murderer, not even Ann Rule, who worked with Ted Bundy.  Knowles was still in the midst of his spree even as he was courting Fawkes, and while Knowles   appears in accounts about serial killers,  hers is the only book devoted entirely to him.  Crossing her path as he did and letting her live did served to immortalize him.

The taped diary that he gave to his attorney, says Frasier, included his description of killing sixteen people (Fawkes says fourteen) across eight states, some for sex, some for material gain, and some just for notoriety.   He also compared himself to the bank robber John Dillinger, bragging that he would one day be as famous. 

John Dillinger
John Dillinger

In custody, he claimed 35 murders, although investigators could not link him to more than eighteen or twenty.  In the end, he was credited with eighteen murders, which is the number he wrote on the palm of his hand when Sheriff Earl Lee asked him for a figure.  Hickey provides a list of the victims, with dates and dispositions of the bodies.  Besides those mentioned above, Knowles is suspected in the rape/strangulation of an unidentified adult woman in Nevada in September during his spree.

Sheriff Earl Lee
Sheriff Earl Lee

As a serial killer, Knowles is unique in that he selected a variety of victims and used a variety of killing methods, sometimes raping, sometimes robbing, and sometimes having no apparent motive.   Not much was known in 1974 about serial killers, but in retrospect, he might better be classified as a spree killer.  Schechter dismisses him as a "nihilistic lowlife who degenerated from a petty criminal into a homicidal drifter, randomly killing anyone unlucky enough to get in his way."  In the end, he wasn't really much of a Casanova.

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