A Century of Murder, Mayhem, and Fraud in Jacksonville

November 10, 2014 8 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Do you really know your next door neighbor? Over the last century, Jacksonville has been the home of several interesting characters and residents who operated on the other side of the law. Here's a few from Jacksonville's notorious past.

2. Paul John Knowles: The Casanova Killer

Knowles is considered to be among America's most unpredictable serial killers, due to his murders not following a pattern.

Paul John Knowles was known as the Casanova Killer. According British journalist Sandy Fawkes, that named was earned because of his good looks, which she likened to a "cross between Robert Redford and Ryan O'Neal." Fawkes had met Knowles in an Atlanta bar and was quickly infatuated by the killer, who happened to be driving a Chevy Impala from a victim he had murdered a few hours earlier.

Over a seven month period, Knowles murdered between 18 to 35 people. Knowles was born in Orlando in 1946 and given up by his father to live in foster homes and reformatories after being convicted of a petty crime. By the time he served his first jail sentence for kidnapping a police officer, he was a 19 year old with a 11-year history of crime.

Knowles began his killing spree after being rejected at the alter by a fiancé who called off their wedding after a psychic warned her of a dangerous man in her life.  According to the Casanova Killer, that rejection resulted in him killing three people in San Francisco that night.

After returning to Jacksonville, he was arrested after stabbing a bartender during a fight. While being held in a detention cell, knowles picked his lock and escaped on July 26, 1974. Soon, retired Jacksonville schoolteacher Alice Curtis was found dead.

During his reign of terror in 1974, Knowles killed the old, young, men, women, and children by a several methods. Methods of death included strangulation, shotgun, and stabbings with scissors. During some of his murders, he sexually assaulted women. With others, he stole cars, money, and credit cards.

Knowles killing spree ended in November 1974, when he was captured by a hunter in the backwoods of Georgia, while trying to escape a roadblock. In custody, he bragged about the deaths and claimed his motive was a thirst for fame.

The Casanova Killer time in custody would not last long and he didn't live to see 30. While working with detectives to locate hidden murder weapons on December 18, 1974, Knowles attempted to pick a lock on his handcuffs with a paper clip that he had hidden in his socks. Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Ronnie Angel responded by firing three shots into the chest of Knowles, killing him instantly.

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