Victim Newly Tied to Paul John Knowleson December 21, 2011 in Serial Killers by Brian Combs
Remains that were discovered in April 1976 have been recently identified as belonging to Ima Jean Sanders, a 13-year-old girl who disappeared in Warner Robins, Georgia on August 1, 1974. Investigators say they are “reasonably confident” she was a victim of Paul John Knowles.
Knowles killed at least 18 people across the United States in 1974. He was captured trying to escape a roadblock on foot near Macon, Georgia in November 1974.
During interviews, he claimed to have picked up teenaged girl in August 1974 and to have killed her just for sport. The identity of this victim remained unknown for decades, but is believed to be Ima Jean.
Knowles was shot to death by an agent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) during an attempted escape on December 18, 1974.
Gary Rothwell, special agent in charge of the GBI’s office in Perry, Georgia said:
When I began my career with the GBI in 1981, the crimes of Paul John Knowles and the manner in which he died was legendary within the agency. I never suspected I would be involved in resolving one of his unsolved murders so many years later.
For Ima Jean’s family, that must have been an eternity. My heart goes out to them.
Knowles mailed audiotaped descriptions to his crimes to his attorney in Florida. These tapes were taken by investigators and never revealed to the public. The tapes and transcripts were later destroyed in a flood.
The only known record of them is a letter written in 1975 by U.S. Attorney Ronald T. Knight. It summarized Knowles description of the crime, and said:
Sometime in August, 1974, Knowles picked up a white, female hitchhiker named Alma who represented her age as 13 or 14 but who appeared to be in her late teens. He carried this girl to a wooded area some distance from Macon, possibly west. He raped her and then strangled her and left her body in woods between trees.
Approximately two weeks later, he returned to the location and found that the body had been moved eight or 10 feet away apparently by animals. The body was greatly deteriorated and barely identifiable as a human being. Knowles found her jawbone and buried it in the area.