In a Span of Four Months, the Casanova Killer Murdered 18 People — Where Is He Now?

One of his last victims was a woman named Barbara Mabee Abel. Before letting her go he told her that he loved her.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

May 17 2024, Published 7:57 p.m. ET

Former U.S. Assistant Attorney Hale Almond got a glimpse of Paul John Knowles' taped confessions sometime before they were destroyed in a flood at the Federal Courthouse in Macon, Ga., in 2004. He likened them to being a diary of sorts, except they recounted tales of murder in gruesome detail. According to Almond, Knowles included how he killed people and even which weapons he used. On occasion, Knowles revealed where the bodies were.

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Knowles would later be dubbed the Casanova Killer due to his movie star good looks. Unfortunately he wasn't promising his victims romance, just death. Over the span of four months in 1974, Knowles went on a killing spree that ended in the deaths of 18 people. For reasons we'll never know, he let one person go. Where is Paul John Knowles now, and what happened to his survivor? Here's what we know.

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Where is Paul John Knowles now?

On July 26, 1974, Knowles was in a Jacksonville, Fla., jail after being arrested for a bar fight, per The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. He picked the lock and escaped. Hours later he was at the home of 65-year-old Alice Curtis. Desperate for money and transportation, Knowles tied her up and gagged her, then escaped using her car. Curtis ended up choking to death on the gag and Knowles stuck around long enough for police to recognize the stolen car. His face was soon splashed across the local television stations.

Over the course of four months, Knowles went on a killing spree that didn't consist of any patterns. Sometimes he murdered people out of necessity because he was looking for money or another car. Other times he appeared to take someone's life on a whim, like he did to "Jane Doe," a hitchhiker he picked up while heading north.

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Finally on Nov. 16, 1974, a police officer recognized a stolen car Knowles was driving. The officer pulled him over but Knowles was faster than the young cop, and was able to take him hostage. Switching to the patrol car, Knowles pulled over a man by the name of James Meyer and took him hostage as well in Meyer's vehicle. This proved to be difficult, so Knowles tied them to a tree in Pulaski County, Ga., and shot them both in the head.

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Hours later he busted through a police roadblock but this ended in Knowles crashing into a tree. After a brief foot chase which involved both dogs and helicopters, Knowles was captured by an armed civilian on Nov. 17, 1974. While in custody Knowles claimed he murdered 35 people but authorities could only verify 18. The next day while being transferred to a maximum security prison, he grabbed a sheriff's revolver but Knowles was shot and killed by Ron Angel, an FBI agent on hand for the transfer.

Barbara Mabee Abel is the only known survivor of the Casanova Killer.

Days before he was captured, Knowled broke into the home of 31-year-old Barbara Mabee Abel. She lived with her son and twin sister Beverly, who had cerebral palsy. She told People that the day she was kidnapped, she had an eerie feeling. It was Nov. 14, 1974, and she picked up her son Dale from school. When she got home, she heard a voice say, "Don't turn around," but she did.

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Knowles was pointing a sawed off shotgun at her as Abel's son ran back into the kitchen to let her know something was wrong with Beverly. She was bound and gagged in her room, and the material shoved in Beverly's mouth was covered in blood. Realizing that her sister was naked, Abel screamed, "Did you rape her?" Laughing, Knowles said he tried then told Abel he was going to take her son. "Don't take my son," she begged. "Take me instead." So, he did.

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Bending over the bed, Abel whispered to her sister that everything was going to be OK. She left with Knowles and got into her car. While driving, Abel decided to be nice to him in the hopes that he wouldn't kill her. "I told him he looked like Robert Redford," said Abel. Soon they stopped at a motel in Fort Pierce, Fla. While there, he repeatedly raped her. At one point they ate at a restaurant together where Abel continued to pretend she liked him.

Back at the motel he assaulted her again and left to make a call, but this time he forgot to take the key with him. Knowles had locked himself out and upon returning realized he couldn't get back in. Instead of making a scene he told Abel through the door that he was leaving. The last thing he said was, "I love you." Two days later, he was dead.

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