The 1974 disappearance and slaying of a 13 year old Georgia girl has been solved. DNA and other clues linked this case to a long dead serial killer who was blamed for murdering at least 18 people – Paul John Knowles.
Skeletal remains found in a wooded area off Ga. 96 in April 1976 recently were matched to the girl, said Gary Rothwell, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Perry office. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said agents were “reasonably confident” that Ima Jean Sanders was killed 37 years ago by Paul John Knowles.
In 1974, Knowles, 28, of Orlando, went on a killing spree across several states, killing at least 18 people, including a Milledgeville man and his teenage daughter. Carwell Carr, 45, was stabbed with a pair of scissors, while his daughter, Mandy was strangled in their home.Knowles was captured in a roadblock near McDonough on I-75 north of Macon in November 1974 after kidnapping a Florida state trooper and another man near Perry, Fla., and later killing them in Pulaski County. Knowles was shot to death by a GBI agent on Dec. 18, 1974, while attempting to escape from custody near Douglasville.
Ima Jean was living with her mother and her 4-year-old sister in Warner Robins, Ga., when she disappeared in August 1974. Her sister remembers getting upset when Ima Jean told her to stay at home while she hopped in a van with some friends. She never saw her family again. In January 2011, DNA samples from Sanders’ mother and sister, now living in Texas, were sent to a national DNA database containing DNA of convicted criminals and missing persons. The genetic data from Sanders’ mother and sister matched DNA from the girl’s skeletal remains. Using this information, investigators developed evidence to support the likelihood that Sanders was killed in 1974 by Knowles.
Investigators say a key piece of evidence in the case was a letter written in 1975 to the GBI by a former U.S. attorney, which summarized Knowles’ taped confessions to crimes.”
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,” the letter states. “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.”
This week, the GBI medical examiner confirmed a DNA match, concluding that the skeletal remains belong to the girl. Warner Robins police Capt. Chris Rooks said the child’s remains are being released to the family so they can finally bury her.
-articles by Fran Jeffries and Jeff Martin rewritten and adapted by admin-