L-R victim Karen Hill, Shawcross with his “adopted” daughter Margaret Deming and granddaughter, Arthur Shawcross, and victim Jack Blake
WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL MATERIAL THAT IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR ALL READERS.
It is time to make up for lost time. I’ve promised to post 4 articles every month and I’m determined to post this article and one more before the first of September. Watch me!
Today I am writing about a killer close to my my original home, Rochester, New York. Only the people who lived in the Monroe County New York region or the Thousand Island/St. Lawrence River area, or who are obsessed with true crime probably recognize the name Arthur Shawcross. In 2008 he died in prison of heart failure at age 63 while serving a life sentence for killing 12 women in Rochester.
Arthur, called “Artie” by his mother, was the oldest of four children born at a Naval hospital in Kittery Maine. He grew up in northern central New York State in the small city of Watertown, near the 1000 Islands area of the St. Lawrence River that borders the U.S. and Canada. He was known as a peculiar child who spoke baby talk until he was 14 and hid under radiators and the teacher’s desk although he was a bully at school. Although he earned As and Bs in kindergarten, his reported IQ was 86 a below average score and he repeated at least three elementary grades and dropped out of school in 9th grade. He was a suspect in several burglary and arson cases and in 1963 was arrested and placed on probation for breaking a shop window. While family members dispute his accusations, he claimed he was sexually molested by his mother and aunt and had sex with his sisters. He mauled small animals, wet his bed, and was a suspect in several arson and burglary cases, characteristics known as the MacDonald Triad, common childhood traits of serial killers.
Despite his rough ways, Shawcross seemed to be popular with the ladies. In 1964 when he was 20, he married Sarah Chatterton and they had a son together. He continued to get involved in illegal activities and Sarah divorced him in 1966; Arthur readily gave up his parental rights. In September 1967 he married his second wife, Linda Neary. It may have been her good fortune that Shawcross was drafted into the military the following month, where he served for more than a year in Vietnam. Years later he claimed to have killed more than 40 Vietnamese, describing abuse and torture he inflicted in graphic detail. His army records indicated that he was a supply clerk and did not kill anyone during his service. He was discharged in 1969, then convicted of arson for burning down Crowley’s Cheese factory and Knowlton Brothers Paper Mill and sentenced to five years in Attica prison. Neary divorced him.
His killing did not begin in 1988 when he murdered and mutilated the first of a 10 prostitutes and a mentally impaired neighbor. He had been a dangerous man since 1972 when at age 27 he was convicted of sexually abusing and killing 11-year-old Jack Black and 8-year-old Karen Hill in Watertown where his mother Bessie had settled with her children while their father completed his military service.
Jack Blake was a neighborhood child whom Artie often took fishing in a meandering local stream. Witnesses saw them together at their regular spot on April 7, 1972. That was the last time anyone saw Jack alive. Later Artie was observed eating ice cream on the bridge where they regularly fished. Blake’s body was not found until five months later. The small boy had been sexually molested and asphyxiated. On April 22nd, Shawcross married his third wife Penny Sherbino, a girl he had known in high school. She was pregnant with his child at the time but miscarried four months later.
About a month after the discovery of Blake’s body, on September 2nd, 8-year-old Karen Hill was reported missing. Her mother questioned Shawcross repeatedly because she knew her daughter talked to him and was seen in his company frequently. His answers were vague but when she told police they seemed disinterested. Her body was discovered later that month under a bridge that crossed the Black River, a place Shawcross was frequently seen. She had been sexually molested and her mouth and clothing stuffed with mud and leaves.
Shawcross was soon picked up for questioning. At first he denied knowledge of either case but quickly confessed to both killings. Fearing he would not be convicted of the Jack Blake murder due to lack of corroborating evidence, the district attorney offered him a plea: If he accepted a sentence of 25 years for the murder of Karen Hill and agreed to show police where he had buried Jack Blake’s body, he would not be prosecuted for the Blake case. He accepted the plea and served 14 1/2 years of his sentence. He had been a model prisoner during his incarceration, earning his GED and passing a horticulture class, and was given excellent references by prison staff. He was paroled in April 1987. Well-publicized attempts to resettle in Watertown and then in Binghamton NY were not successful and the parole board finally decided to seal his criminal records and relocate him with his girlfriend, Rose Whalley, a few hundred miles south and east in Rochester New York. Apparently their relationship did not meet his needs and he soon acquired a girlfriend, Clara Neal. Nonetheless he married Rose, who became his fourth wife, in 1989. [He later married Clara, wife number five, during his final incarceration.]
Shawcross worked a number of short-lived menial jobs, the last as a salad maker for a produce company. In spite of having a wife, a girlfriend, and a job, he was able to make time to cruise Rochester’s “red light district” on run-down Lyell Avenue. Pretty 27-year-old Dorothy Blackburn was one of them. She disappeared on March 24, 1988 and was discovered dumped in the Genesee River after she had been viciously attacked, bitten in the groin, and strangled. On September 11th the body of prostitute Anna Steffen was discovered near the Blackburn dump site, and on October 21st, the asphyxiated body of a homeless woman 59-year-old Dorothy Keeler was discovered. The body of Patty Ives, sexually abused and strangled, was found 6 days later, on October 27th. While prostitutes were often involved with drugs and found themselves in dangerous situations, Rochester police were now convinced they were looking for a serial killer. They warned the women who cruised the Lake-Lyell avenues to be cautious of strangers and travel in pairs. Arthur Shawcross, though, was a well-known figure to the girls who worked the streets and they did not consider him dangerous.
June Stotts, age 30, was Arthur’s friend. She was neither a prostitute nor a drug-user. He picked her up on the street on October 23rd and they drove to a nearby beach where they had sex, then argued. Stotts was strangled, anally abused postmortem, then her body split open from neck to crotch, and partially eviscerated; her body was discovered on Thanksgiving Day. After June’s slaying, Shawcross strangled and mutilated Frances Brown, Maria Welch, Elizabeth Gibson, Darlene Trippi, Felicia Stevens, and June Cicero.
On January 3, 1990, a police helicopter covering route 31 near Northampton Park where a wallet and boots belonging to Felicia Stevens had been discovered, saw a car stopped on a bridge over Salmon Creek. The occupant was outside the passenger side of the vehicle and below him, frozen in the creek ice, was the nude body of a woman later identified as June Cicero. This was not the first time Shawcross had visited her body, he told police. Two days after the murder he had returned to the scene with a hand saw, cut out her vagina, and ate it. While the vagina had been cut, the cannibalism allegation was never proven Arthur Shawcross had been her last trick on the night of December 18th. She had bragged to police earlier that day that the killer didn’t worry her. She could take care of herself. He should be afraid of her, she had claimed.
Arthur Shawcross justified every murder he committed except the murders of the children, Those he repeatedly refused to discuss. In one videotaped interview, however, he told the questioner that he did not want to talk about the children because he regretted those crimes and felt shame. For the other victims, he always found an excuse. The prostitutes made fun of his inability to perform sexually, he claimed. Several tried to steal his wallet. One bit his penis during oral sex. His written confession was 80 pages long.
He never expressed remorse for any of his crimes and in fact said he was unable to feel any emotion about them. In November 1990 he was tried for 10 cases of second degree murder (one occurred in an adjacent county and was tried separately) and sentenced to 250 years in New York State’s Sullivan Correctional Facility. On November 8, 2008 he complained of leg pains and was transferred to an Albany hospital where he died the same day.
The beginning of this blog reflects my own personal opinions and very likely does not reflect the beliefs of my writing partner, retired Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells. His frame of reference is vastly different from mine. It reflects different experiences than those I have had; I deeply respect what he believes to be the truth.
Most of the following blog tells the stories of two fine, dedicated Florida Troopers, Claude Baker and Charlie Campbell, and how their duty to protect the public cost them their lives. By telling their stories in tandem with references to George Floyd and Derek Chauvin, I want to emphasize that we cannot afford to polarize our nation further by simplistically defining complicated people and situations as right or wrong, good or evil, Black or White, racist or non-racist. Abolishing police departments is a foolish idea; making them better trained and accountable for the acts they perform, right now, is essential. God bless the brave men and women who leave their homes each morning in the hope of protecting our communities. May they remain strong, fair, and safe.
Law Enforcement as a career is taking a brutal beating these days with some justification. The world froze in horror at the video image of Minneapolis police officer Derek Michael Chauvin kneeling for eight minutes on the neck of George Floyd, who had been suspected of passing a counterfeit twenty dollar bill. Floyd was only the most recent victim of a flurry of Black American deaths by officers of the law. These deaths are not largely the product of evil racist cops. They are the product of a racialized country that not only permits but in some cases encourages citizens to take the worst parts of their nature, their prejudices and hatreds, out onto the streets and to act on them without fear of recrimination.
I think most law enforcement professionals do the best job they can to protect the public–Black and White–and to put bad people away where they can do no more harm. They risk their lives every day to do so.
Charlie Wells told me the stories of two fellow-troopers he knew, worked with, liked, and respected during his early law enforcement days. I have paraphrased here but have written in the first person: Wells is the narrator. Sections that appear in italics were written directly by Charlie Wells and are part of his forthcoming autobiography.
Troopers Claude Baker and Charlie Campbell were as close as any two troopers I knew. They shared a common vision of what it was to be a law enforcement officers but they were different men with different personalities and characteristics.
Charlie, who stood about 6’1” and weighed around 250 pounds, had little patience when he was confronted by a violator who wanted to give him a hard time. Otherwise he just looked mean. A sinkhole had developed in one of the roadways in Sarasota and troopers were assigned to prevent motorists from driving into it. Charlie was directing traffic that hot summer day when he motioned drivers to turn right or left, avoiding the hole. One vehicle pulled up to the intersection and watching Charlie’s direction, the driver honked his horn. Charlie looked at the guy who was yelling at him, but could not hear what he said because the car window was up. He shrugged his shoulders questioningly and the driver pointed that he wanted to go straight. Charlie once again motioned for the driver to turn.
The driver blew his horn again, this time louder and longer, and once again motioned to Charlie that he wanted to go straight. Charlie moved the barricade, then walked over to the driver who by now had rolled his window down and was still grumbling. Charlie said “Do you see that sinkhole over there?” The driver raised up in his seat to see better and finally said yes. Charlie said “Drive into the hole.” The driver said “I don’t want to drive into the hole.” Charlie said “I told you to drive into the hole.” By this time the driver was red-faced and shaking his head no. Charlie said “If you don’t want to drive into the hole, then you have to turn. Why do you think the barricades are there? Why do you think I’m here?” The embarrassed driver finally got the message, turned right, and drove off.
While Charlie was the more serious of the two, he also had a sense of humor. One night he invited Trooper Ron Getman to go fishing with Claude and him. Getman showed up at the meeting place by the water and got out of his car with a bucket of shrimp for bait. His friends asked him what was in the bucket and Getman told them. Campbell grabbed one of the shrimp from the bucket, threw it in the water, and announced “Well, looks like they aren’t biting. Let’s go get a beer.” Getman caught on immediately. The invitation had not been for a fishing trip, it was strictly a beer drinking night!
Claude, who was the smaller of the pair, was always smiling. When he issued citations to violators they never seemed to get mad at him. Getting promoted within the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) was difficult. It meant months of studying law, policy and supervision prior to the promotional examinations. On one occasion the promotional examinations were held at the University of South Florida, Tampa. Claude and Charlie rode to the exam together in Charlie’s car. I pulled up in the university parking lot at the same time they did. We got out of our cruisers, shook hands, and walked to the examination room together. I asked Claude if he had been studying. “Yes” he said, “on the ride up here, but it was hard to concentrate because Charlie kept talking to me.” I knew Claude was kidding, he hadn’t studied at all. We all laughed and entered the exam room. After we had finished I saw Claude again and he said “I think I may have missed one or two questions.” We laughed and walked to our cruisers. Claude had no interest in being promoted. He was content with his life and did not care about climbing the chain of command. In many ways I admired him for his contentment. It wasn’t that he was lazy or unintelligent. He was a bright trooper with a good head on his shoulders, but above all he was happy.
Henry Lorenzo Payne was not a stranger to law enforcement. Two days before encountering Trooper Claude Baker, Payne had been serving a three-year sentence for auto theft at Zephyr Hills Prison Camp in his home state of Florida when he escaped from a work release program on November 15, 1973. It didn’t take him long to return to a life of crime. The next day he went to a Ware Construction Company site in Tampa. He reached through a car window where a security guard named Spivey was seated and attempted to grab the guard’s gun. When Spivey refused to give it up, Payne dragged him from the car, beat him, and stole his weapon and a small television set he had been watching.
The following day, November 17th, Payne abducted a twenty-one-year-old female from a shopping center and forced her to drive to a wooded area near Tampa. There he raped her, stole her 1972 blue Oldsmobile, and drove off leaving her in the woods.The victim walked to the nearest phone and called the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Payne laid low until nightfall, then headed south, passing through Ruskin, Palmetto, Bradenton, Sarasota, and Venice in the stolen car.He was, unsurprisingly, speeding. Trooper Baker who was on duty and traveling north on route 41 at the time, made a U turn and gave chase.
At 7:58 p.m. , Trooper Baker, #365, radioed the Bradenton dispatcher and advised that he was stopping a blue Oldsmobile Cutlass, license number FL 3W-51397. They were seven or eight miles south of Venice on U.S. 41, otherwise known as Tamiami Trail. The Bradenton dispatcher checked his records and reported that the car was not missing or stolen. Traffic stops like this one occur thousands of times a week and were normally routine. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office report of the rape and car theft had not yet been entered into the system; This stop on this night would be anything but routine.
Terry and Sharon Rhodes were traveling south on U.S. 41 and saw a trooper pass them with blue lights on. They said the trooper went out of sight at a curve in the road, then a few minutes later they saw the trooper’s blue lights again. When their car was adjacent to the patrol car they saw the trooper lying on the ground face down. Terry, who worked for an ambulance service in Fort Myers, jumped from his car and ran to the trooper’s aid.He turned Claude Baker over and attempted to clear his air passage. Claude was moaning and then expelled a lot of blood.Rhodesdid not see Payne who had already left in the blue Oldsmobile.
Everything was quiet in the dispatch system until 8:03 p.m. The on-duty Bradenton dispatcher broke the radio squelch and I detected a nervous quiver in his voice. Ben Clinger, ordinarily a calm dispatcher and a man I knew well was not calm now as he spoke on the radio. He was talking to a citizen speaking from Claude’s radio, which was very unusual. While I could not hear what the citizen was saying I could clearly hear Clinger and some back and forth between Clinger and the citizen. Clinger broadcast words that chilled me to the bone: “Bradenton all units, #365 has been shot on U.S. 41 approximately 7 miles south of Venice.” I had heard a similar message about a trooper earlier in my career and the results had not been good.I felt sick.
Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputies rapidly deployed to the scene. Detective Robert Hampton and his colleagues searched the area to recover evidence.Hampton reported that Claude had been shot twice, once on the left chest and a second time on his right arm near the elbow. His gun lay on the ground behind the left rear tire. Ironically, Sergeant Eric Britt found a check issued by the Ware Construction Company to Henry Lorenzo Payne two feet in front of Claude’s patrol car. Payne had worked at the work site where he had robbed the security guard the day before.
At midnight the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office reported they had received a call from a Port Charlotte resident. She had been watching television and had seen the news report of the trooper killing with a description of Payne and the car he was driving. She said she had seena car matching that description parked in her neighborhood. Charlotte County deputies immediately responded. They found Payne. In the Oldsmobile he was driving, deputies found a .38 revolver and the clothes Payne had been wearing. There were bloodstains on his jeans.
Payne was not going to give up easily. After his arrest he told Detective Hampton that his name was Leroy Jenkins. He admitted having been in the blue Oldsmobile, but insisted that a man he called “Bee Bop”had picked him up hitchhiking and was the actual shooter.After Hampton left the room, Payne finally admitted his true identity to the other officer interrogating him, Lieutenant Bohanson. Payne invoked his right to an attorney, was assigned a public defender, and refused to talk to detectives any further.
Undoubtedly to avoid the death penalty, Payne eventually plead guilty to first degree murder for the death of Claude Baker. He was sentenced to life in prison at Tomoka Facility. In addition to murder, Payne was convicted of robbery, rape, grand theft auto, and escape. In 1987 he again escaped his Jackson County facility. While out of prison Payne was convicted of additional crimes: Robbery with a firearm and aggravated battery with intent to do harm, and escape. Again, hopefully for the last time, he is serving a life sentence in prison.
Over 700 were in attendance at the Ewing Funeral Home in Venice to show their respect for a fine trooper and an outstanding man. The chapel was filled to capacity and an overflow crowd listened to the service on outside speakers. Staff members from General Headquarters (GHQ) Tallahassee including FHP Director, Colonel J.E. Beach. The Lieutenant Colonel and several Troop Commanders from around the state were also in attendance. Law Enforcement officers from hundreds of state and local agencies were in attendance to honor Claude. Hundreds of local citizens came, even though many of them may have never known Claude, but they wanted to let Claude’s family and law enforcement know they cared for them and many of them wept during the service.
An FHP Honor Guard stood at Claude’s casket. An American flag covered the casket, which I believed would have pleased Claude: He was a patriotic man. Claude’s family was ushered into the chapel and quietly took their seats. Connie Baker, Claude’s wife along with his daughter Sabrina were escorted in by Corporal Steve Ward, Claude’s immediate supervisor. It was heartbreaking for me to look at Connie and Sabrina Baker as the sat, eyes overflowing with tears. Connie was a beautiful, dignified lady. She and Claude had been married for over nine years. The service was almost unbearable for her. At her young age I was not certain that their daughter, beautiful little Sabrina, could understand that her daddy was never coming home again.
The motorcade that accompanied Claude Baker’s body consisted of more than 150 patrol cars and police motorcycles from multiple agencies, blue lights flashing with hundreds of civilians falling in behind them. The procession was two miles long. Along the route, hundreds lined up on the sidewalks and street corners to salute the hearse carrying Claude to his final resting place. The entire experience was humbling, yet bittersweet, bitter because of Claude’s murder, sweet because of the support he was receiving from the public along the way. We had lost a good man and the public knew it.
Losing Claude Baker had been agonizing for Charlie Campbell and he was never the same after his best friend was murdered. He finally asked for and was granted a transfer to Perry. He thought the change might ease his pain and help him get past it all. Before long he settled into his new assignment and seemed relatively satisfied.
On November 16, 1974, near Thanksgiving and one day short of a year since Claude Baker had died, Charlie got into his cruiser, signed on in service, and headed to the Perry Florida Highway Patrol station. He spoke with the dispatcher, jotting down information on a “Be On The Lookout” (BOLO) for a stolen beige Volkswagen. He headed south on U.S. 19, the main arterial highway through Taylor County.
About seven miles south of Perry Charlie spotted a beige Volkswagen that fit the description of the BOLO stolen car. Charlie made a U-turn though the median and fell in behind the car. Reading the license plate, he noticed that it was different from the one on the BOLO. He activated his emergency lights and stopped the Volkswagen to investigate.Charlie had no way of knowing that the driver was one of the most evil human beings in the nation at the time: Paul John Knowles.It was never determined why Campbell had not radioed ahead to dispatch, as was protocol, to report that he was stopping the Volkswagen.
Knowles was a ruthless serial killer who had already murdered and raped numerous times. [See the details in the blog dated July 31, 2020, truecrimemama.com]. As Charlie approached the Volkswagen, Knowles quickly exited with a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun and got the drop on the trooper.Knowles handcuffed Campbell, then ordered him into the passenger side of the car. The two drove away with Knowles behind the wheel, leaving the Volkswagen behind.
Knowles could not afford to be spotted driving a sheriff’s vehicle, but he used it one final time to stop a blue Ford Torino driven by 30-year-old James E. Meyer of Wilmington, Delaware.Meyer had rented the car from Hertz at the Tallahassee airport and was headed to Perry on business. Knowles subdued Meyer, most likely, by handcuffing him with a spare set of handcuffs found in Charlie’s FHP cruiser, then placed him in the Torino’s back seat with Charlie and took off looking for an escape route to leave the area.
The Taylor County area is a rural county encompassing fewer than 1,300 square miles with a population of 21,600. Perry is the county seat and is located about 50 miles south of the state capitol in Tallahassee. While the County is on the west coast, it is not a beach community but better- known for great hunting and fishing locations. Because of its size, limited financial resources hindered law enforcement in their search for Charlie. The County’s small sheriff’s force relied on wild life officers, state troopers, the marine patrol, the FBI, and local citizens to assist them. All their efforts failed and Knowles drove out of the county and made his way to Georgia, less than 40 miles away.
He traveled on less populated roads, but was not invisible. In Lakeland Georgia a service station attendant reported seeing Knowles in a car with two other men about 1 p.m. Another witness saw him in Abbeville around 4 p.m., and a third witness said he saw the car near the the Houston and Pulaski county lines a short time later where Knowles made a right hand turn onto the dirt state road 247, traveling at a high rate of speed. Between 6 and 7 p.m. purchases of a tape recorder, tapes, clothing, shoes and batteries were made at a Sears store in Macon Georgia with Charlie Campbell’s credit card. By 10:15 p.m. Knowles had checked into the Ambassador Motel in Macon. By then he was alone.
Early the following afternoon, Henry County Georgia Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Hancock received a BOLO for the blue Torino Knowles was driving. He saw the car and called for a roadblock at Highway 52 where Knowles was headed. Seeing the barrier, Knowles sped up and hit a patrol car, then sprang from his car, pointing a revolver at the pursuing sheriffs, but did not shoot. He ran for the nearby woods. Law enforcement officers and a team of tracking dogs were not immediately able to locate him.
Several hours later Knowles was apprehended in Henry County. His escape route covered a distance of 4.5 miles, primarily through a wooded area. During the time he was pursued Knowles forcibly entered two residences located on Springdale Road. He had stolen a single-barrel Stevens shotgun from one of the houses and it was in his possession at the time of his arrest.
Knowles was eventually captured by a soft-spoken young man named David Clark. Clark had spotted Knowles while walking outside his house, calmly walked into his home to get his shotgun, and Knowles surrendered to him without a struggle. He was exhausted after running several miles from the pursuing deputies and dogs. Ironically, the 12-gauge shotgun Knowles had stolen did not have a firing pin and was worthless to the killer. Clark marched Knowles across the street and asked one of his neighbors to call the police. Scores of law enforcement officers quickly appeared at Clark’s address and took Knowles into custody. Clark was considered a hero by his neighbors. The slender 27-year-old had not been figured to be the type to capture a dangerous criminal, his neighbor said.
Four days later, on November 21, 1974 the bodies of Charlie and Meyer were found by two deer hunters, Dennis Thompson and Walter Owens, near Perry, Georgia. Charlie and 7 another miles west where they were killed. Charlie and Meyer were found lying head to head at the base of a large pine tree. It appeared they had been restrained by handcuffs prior to being shot in the head. Charlie was in full FHP uniform, except his hat and gun belt. He had been shot with a .357 magnum, Claude Baker’s gun, the gun Charlie had requested Florida Highway Patrol issue to him after Claude’s death.
A Federal Grand Jury was impaneled in Macon and Sheldon Yavitz, Knowles’ attorney, was subpoenaed to testify regarding tape recordings he possessed that Knowles had made at the scenes of 18 murders he was charged with. He wanted someone to write a book about his exploits using the tapes.
A large number of reporters and curiosity seekers had gathered at the jail trying to get a photo or glimpse of Knowles, which caused authorities to be concerned about his security and the security of police officers at the jail. After careful thought, they decided to move Knowles to Douglas County Jail in Milledgeville, Georgia. The sheriff of Douglas County was Earl Lee who was a big affable man who had a solid reputation in law enforcement. After having served as a deputy for eight years, Sheriff Lee ran for sheriff and was elected. Lee had attended law enforcement schools to sharpen his skills and also graduated from the National FBI Academy. While he was there, Lee became friends with a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agent named Ronnie Angel.
After Knowles was incarcerated in the Douglas County Jail, Lee and Angel regularly visited his cell to establish rapport with him. The two lawmen were tenacious and wanted to get as much information as Knowles would give them about other murders he had committed. Sheriff Lee later testified before the grand jury that he had asked Knowles how many people he had killed and Knowles had written in the palm of his hand the number 18. The sheriff also testified that Knowles had written on the wall of his cell Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, Mississippi and Ohio as the states where he had committed his crimes. Sheriff Lee and Agent Angel also asked Knowles what he had done with Charlie’s service revolver and after many conversations, on December 10, Knowles finally agreed to show them where he had discarded the weapon. The sheriff knew that Knowles was a vain, cocky man who was upset when he wasn’t mentioned in the media and might cooperate for the attention it would offer him.
On December 18th, Lee and Angel collected their prisoner from his cell and secured his hands and legs with cuffs and chains to prevent an escape attempt. Lee drove the cruiser and they proceeded south on Interstate 20 toward Henry County. Agent Angel had contacted several GBI agents and members of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and requested they meet him and Sheriff Lee at Hudson Bridge Road and Interstate 75 to provide additional security for the search for the gun.
At the county line road bridge Knowles lit up a cigarette and Lee directed him to throw the cigarette out. He pulled over to the side of the road for Knowles to dispose of it, but Knowles said he would put it out in the ash tray. Shortly after that Sheriff Lee saw and felt Knowles’ arm reach over his shoulder and grab his gun. Agent Angel also saw Knowles grab the sheriff’s gun. Shots were fired and the vehicle left the roadway. Upon coming to a stop, Sheriff Lee got out of the vehicle and confirmed that Knowles was dead. The latter had actually fired the sheriff’s gun while it was partially holstered and at approximately the same time, Agent Angel fired the shots that killed Knowles.
Examinations by the state crime laboratory recovered three bullets from Knowles body during an autopsy. A metal paper clip was found in the Douglas County Sheriff’s vehicle that Knowles had used to pick the handcuff lock from his right hand. On December 30, 1974, a coroner’s inquest was held in Douglas County to examine the facts surrounding the death of Knowles. After hearing nine witnesses testify, the coroner’s jury ruled that the death of Knowles was justifiable homicide.
In a single year’s time, two outstanding law enforcement officers, Claude Baker and Charlie Campbell, colleagues and the best of friends, lost their lives in the line of duty. Henry Lorenzo Payne was off the streets for life, no longer a threat to innocent Florida citizens. The spree killer, Paul John Knowles, a man who had at the same time gone on a murderous six-month rampage, was also now dead.Without the courage and persistence of men like Baker and Campbell, there is no doubt that the world would be a vastly more dangerous place. We are grateful for their lives. May they rest in peace.
PHOTOS AND SOURCES: Top left: Murder scene of Nora Parker Rieper(Murderpedia.org), Below left: Nora with her daughter Pauline (Murderpedia.org), Lower Right: Pauline Parker Rieper and Juliet Hulme leaving the magistrate’s office after being committed for murder trial (Christchurch Star-Sun).
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SCENES OF EXTREME AND GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AND REFERENCES TO SEXUAL MATTERS AND IS NOT SUITABLE FOR ALL AUDIENCES.
If you are a fan of mystery novels, particularly British mysteries, you may recognize the name Anne Perry. Since she began in 1979, Perry has published more than 60 Victorian mystery novels, many in popular series such as the William Monk and Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels. The books have sold 26 million copies worldwide and have never been out of print. Included in her published writing are 27 Christmas-themed books and novellas, as well as books about World War I and a smattering of miscellaneous novels.
What you may not know is that in 1954 Anne Perry was called Juliet Hulme. At that time she was a lovely, intelligent 15-year-old whose manner was mature for her age and who loved stylish clothes…and she helped her best friend Pauline Parker murder Parker’s mother.
Juliet’s father, Henry Hulme was well known internationally as a mathematician and a nuclear physicist. The Hulme family lived in England. In 1948 he accepted the leadership position of rector at Canterbury University College in Christchurch New Zealand and moved his family there. Her mother Hilda was an attractive socialite who loved music and art, entertained lavishly, and was well known to be “sexually outgoing.” We will talk about that later. Juliet’s brother Jonathan, nicknamed Jonty, was born five years after his sister. The Hulme family lived in an affluent suburb of the city of Christchurch in a lovely brick and stucco home owned by the university. The property included a tennis court, woodlands, a meandering stream, an orchard, nearly 40 acres of well-tended gardens, and a housekeeper.
All was not, however, serene in the Hulme household. Juliet had suffered serious bouts of tuberculosis throughout her childhood and lived off and on in sanitariums, with relatives, and in boarding schools as far from home as Barbados and South Africa from the time she was 8 until she permanently rejoined her family’s New Zealand household at age 11. Henry and Hilda loved their daughter, but found her difficult to manage and discovered it was often easier to have her live apart from the family. Another unusual feature of their lifestyle was that Bill Perry, a Canadian businessman known publicly as a “close friend of the family,” was in fact Hilda’s lover and beginning in 1973 lived in an apartment connected to the Hulme’s residence. Hilda had been a volunteer marriage counselor for her church and met Bill when he came to her for counseling about his own crumbling marriage. Hilda finally told her husband that she wanted a divorce; she and Henry were headed toward one, but insisted that it be “civilized” which seemed for them to mean slowly.
Pauline Parker, by comparison, was unattractive, unpopular, and wore a near-perpetual scowl. As a result of a childhood case of osteomyelitis, a serious bone infection, she had been sickly from the age of 5 and sustained a slight limp. Her family was lower middle class; Bert Rieper, her father, managed a fish shop, her 17-year-old sister Wendy worked as a sales person in a lingerie shop, and her mother Honorah–called Nora–kept house in their large, somewhat ramshackle home which had been converted to a boardinghouse. The first born Rieper child had died in infancy, and another daughter, Rosemary, had Downs Syndrome and lived in an institution. Nora Rieper had a demanding life and was known to be strict with her children and may have physically disciplined them. Unbeknownst to the children, Bert and Nora had never actually married; Bert had been married with two children when he fell in love and ran away with Nora. At the time of her murder trial, Pauline Rieper was astonished to learn that her legal surname was Parker, which was her mother’s maiden name.
Christchurch Girls’ High School, a public school with an outstanding academic reputation, was the tenth school Juliet attended, most of them unhappily. While she tested with an extraordinarily high IQ, she was regarded as disrespectful to her teachers and behaved as if she were in a higher social class than almost everyone she encountered. She was narcissistic, condescending to her peers, and demanded to be in charge in every situation. Pauline and Juliet became acquainted at Girls’ High in 1953. When they first met, Pauline had excitedly told her mother that Juliet was the first person she knew whose strong will matched her own. The two had been excluded from all physical activities in the gym and playing fields due to their weak constitutions, and so spent many solitary hours together. They devoted their time to writing and discussing a rich collaborative fantasy life.
Juliet and Pauline soon became inseparable, spending days, evenings and overnights with one another, usually at the Hulme home. There the girls secretly crept outside at midnight to share a picnic with wine in the yard or to ride Juliet’s horse. Nora Rieper disapproved of the Hulme’s freewheeling social style and often used the threat of keeping Pauline from her friend’s company to make her compliant. It worked but also fueled Pauline’s growing anger at her mother and desire to stay away from her family and home.
Both girls had lost their virginity to boys they knew casually, but over time they developed their own sexual relationship. Juliet was the most knowledgeable about the subject, but Pauline became an eager student. The latter kept an almost-daily diary and described in detail their long baths together and time spent in bed when their parents were unaware of their activities. While both girls later denied having had a homosexual relationship, Pauline’s June 13th diary entry suggested otherwise: “We spent a hectic night going through the Saints [their private name for their beloved male film stars]…We have now learned the peace of the thing called Bliss, the joy of the thing called Sin.”
Despite their physical and personality differences, Juliet and Pauline had a lot in common. They were both lonely girls who came to share a rich fantasy life in which they believed they had access to a “4th World,” one that few other people were aware of, and where they would go when they died. They disdained organized religion and believed that they were more beautiful, clever, and talented than other people. They were especially proud of their writing abilities. Juliet preferred the poetic form while Pauline wrote novels and plays. They were much-enamored of then-popular American film stars, Mario Lanza, James Mason, and Mel Ferrar in particular. For a time they saved money to travel to America to meet their film heroes–their private name for them was “Saints”– and have their books published. None of these traits and unfulfilled plans were shared or confirmed by outside sources.
To complicate matters further in the disordered Hulme household, Henry had become embroiled in office politics at the University which forced his premature retirement in the spring of 1954. He planned to pursue a research career in England. Juliet’s tuberculosis was not yet completely cured, so her parents decided she would return to South Africa where her paternal aunt operated a boarding school rather than to chance the damp English winter weather. Hilda planned to take Jonty with her back to England, perhaps with Bill Perry, while Henry would accompany Julie to his sister Ina’s home in South Africa, then proceed on to England. By June of 1954 the Hulme home atmosphere was tense.
To relieve some of the pressure, Hilda and Henry told Juliet and Pauline that they would pay for Pauline to accompany Juliet to South Africa and hinted she would continue on with them eventually to England. All that was required were Nora’s and Bert’s approval. Pauline’s parents believed that Juliet was a poor influence on their daughter and contributed to her displeasure with her own family life, so they hope Juliet’s departure would reduce Pauline’s ugly temperament and disdain for her mother especially. Their refusal to approve was guaranteed.
Knowing that the friends were soon to be parted, both sets of parents were very indulgent, allowing the girls to spend even more time together than usual. In early June Pauline suggested to Juliet that their separation problem could be solved easily if they killed her pesky mother. Nora wasn’t very happy to begin with, Pauline argued, so how much would she lose by being dead? A little reluctantly, Juliet agreed.
Pauline was allowed to stay with Juliet for two weeks in June, the weeks preceeding Nora Parker’s murder. The two best friends confirmed their murderous plan by June 19th and spent the remaining days planning the event. Pauline determined to spend more time at home interacting happily with her family. She would do the chores her mother required cheerfully. Then, having been successfully duped, Nora would agree to an afternoon outing with both girls, a kind of farewell to Juliet, as Nora was unlikely to see her again. Juliet and Pauline doubled down and began to plan the details of the attack.
On Monday, June 21st, Pauline suggested to her mother that the two of them and Juliet take a short bus trip the next day to Victoria Park, a pleasant area on a hill overlooking Christchurch. There they would enjoy tea and have a little hike in the woods. Tuesday morning, June 22nd, Juliet selected a half-brick from the garden and placed it in her shoulder bag. She had also removed a blue decorative stone from a piece of costume jewelry and stored that away too. Her father drove her into town where she had been given permission to have the noon meal with Pauline’s family.
Nora insisted on fixing midday dinner for Bert and Wendy before they left, so the Riepers and Juliet shared a cheerful repast together before the ladies left for the bus stop. Doing her part that morning, Pauline had tucked a single lisle stocking into her purse. In her diary the night before, she had recorded that she felt as if she were anticipating a surprise party. “Mother will be dead. How odd and yet how pleasing,” she wrote. The following morning she continued, “I felt very excited and ‘the night before Christmas-ish’ last night.”
The day was sunny and in the low 60 degrees, a comfortable temperature for a forest amble. The three walked a short distance from the bus stop to a single story tea kiosk where Nora ordered tea for herself and soft drinks for the girls as well as cakes, scones, and chocolates to make the snack festive. According to the manageress of the kiosk, the group appeared to be congenial. After consuming their small meal, they headed off toward a downward trail.
Pauline lead with Juliet’s brick now inserted into the stocking. Her mother followed and Juliet brought up the rear. They crossed a rickety bridge composed of slender logs. A few yards beyond, Nora announced that she had had enough hiking. The group reversed its course. Juliet, now in the lead, dropped her blue trinket and pointing it out to Nora who bent to examine it. Pauline slammed her brick-laden stocking into her mother’s head. Nora moaned and tried with her hands to block the blows now coming in rapid succession. The murder was much more difficult than either Pauline or Juliet had foreseen. They took turns striking Nora repeatedly until she stopped moving. Then they ran back to the tea kiosk and reported that Pauline’s mother had been badly injured, possibly dead. She had fallen on the path and struck her head on a rock, they said. An ambulance needed to be immediately dispatched.
Police reported to the crime scene almost as soon as the ambulance arrived. Investigators noted the numerous head and facial wounds the woman had sustained and immediately concluded that Nora had not been the victim of an accident. They began to collect evidence and transferred Nora’s body to the mortuary. Bert Rieper was contacted. Stunned and horrified, he was required to identify the body of the love of his life, the mother of four of his children.
Henry Hulme had been quickly summoned to the tea kiosk to collect his daughter and her friend. He took them to his home immediately and he and Hilda saw that the two girls were bathed, their bloody clothing washed, and they were given their supper. Not far behind, detectives appeared at the residence and requested permission to interview Juliet and Pauline separately. Their request was honored. Juliet denied any role in the homicides and Pauline accepted full responsibility for them. The parents had consented to the interview of both girl without the presence of attorneys, an error they all lived to regret, and the girls were subsequently arrested.
Both families secured legal counsel, and the prosecution and defense teams obtained reputable psychiatric experts to plead their cases of culpability or mental incapacity. The cases were tried together in the late summer of 1974, Juliet and Pauline were reportedly relaxed, laughing and exchanging whispered remarks throughout the trial. Juliet refused to see or communicate with her mother who attended the trial daily; her father and brother Jonty were now living in England. Bert was too grief-stricken to attend and was never able to bring himself to reestablish a relationship with his daughter.
After five days of testimony, a jury found both young women guilty of murder without mitigating psychiatric circumstances. As minors, Pauline and Juliet were sentenced to indeterminate terms, a minimum of five years, and much to their dismay in separate penal institutions. Within a week of the trial Hilda Hulme legally changed her name to H. Marion Perry and she and Bill sailed to England without seeing Juliet and never returned to New Zealand. After Hilda’s divorce from Henry became final, she and Bill married.
The girls, at the time of sentencing 16 and 17 years old, each served 5-year terms in which they toiled in their respective laundries, sewing rooms, and housekeeping staffs. They were released two weeks apart and allowed to legally register with alternate names to protect their identities. Juliet Hulme became Anne Perry, her surname taken from her stepfather. Pauline Parker became Hilary Nathan. They never saw one another again.
Anne lived in England and in San Francisco for five years, supporting herself as a librarian, a nanny, and in various other entry level professional jobs. She eventually settled in the small village of Portmahomack in Scotland. Beginning in 1974 she began publishing her numerous popular historical crime novels and actively participated in a local Morman congregation. In 1979 a New Zealand journalist tracked her down for the first time since her release from prison. While she repeatedly insisted that she had paid her debt to society and wished to put the murder behind her, she gave several interviews to the press. After Bill Perry’s death, her mother settled nearby and mother and daughter reconciled and became close. She continues to write and publish. A Google search will produce many more recent photos and information about her life and her books.
Hilary eventually moved to the Orknay Islands, a desolate spot in the far north of Scotland, about one hundred miles away from Anne’s home. Until her whereabouts was discovered in 1997 and she retired, she had lived in the tiny village of Hoo St, Werburgh in Kent where she taught special education and operated a riding school, her lifelong dream. She was described by neighbors variously as a nice woman and an eccentric one. Once discovered, she quickly sold her property. The new owners found a mural in one of the bedrooms, probably painted by Hilary. It depicted two young girls, one blonde like her best friend Juliet and the other dark like she had been. The blonde girl was riding a horse into the sky while the dark girl tried to restrain the horse and rider to the earth. Regardless of what Anne Perry was able to put behind her, Hilary Nathan apparently still carried some ghosts.
Hilary has refused to give interviews but she has permitted her sister Wendy to speak on her behalf. Wendy reported that Hilary, a devote Roman Catholic, is another person than the one who murdered her mother in 1974. She lives a solitary life devoted to prayer and attends daily mass in a nearby town. She lives like a nun, perhaps working out her own salvation.
It may be true, as Anne Perry says, that there is nothing to be gained by dwelling on past events that cannot be undone. She once told a journalist that she had gone down on her knees in prison and prayed about her participation in the event. She has never, though, claimed any responsibility for it. Public humiliation is not the only or best way to pay one’s penance, yet it does seem to me that something more than “sorry” is due.
During the trial some psychiatrists hypothesized that Juliet and Pauline were bound together in a folie a deux, a sort of psychotic hallucination they came to share. After hearing all of the testimony the jury concluded that they knew what they were doing was wrong and had been able to control themselves. No amount of bad parenting or childhood illness excused them from taking full responsibility for their actions. Only Anne and Hilary will ever know the truth of what happened on that June day or why.
Much has been written and produced about the Nora Rieper murder. The case was included in a number of crime anthologies, and in 1991 the first serious treatment was published, Parker and Hulme: A Lesbian View by Julia Glamuzina and Alison J. Laurie. Also in 1991, the play Daughters of Heaven. written by American playwright Michelanne Forster, opened in the Court Theater in Christchurch. Perhaps most famously, in 1994 filmmaker Peter Jackson and his wife and collaborator Fran Walsh released the film Heavenly Creatures, starring Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey, which launched Winslet’s film career.
I am personally grateful for many newspaper accounts and articles written about this case, and especially for two books that have provided a wealth of facts and opinions that have influenced this account. They are Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by New Zealand barrister and author Peter Graham, and The Search for Anne Perry by Joanne Drayton, also a well-known New Zealand author. The more I research and read and interview, the less I feel I know about the motives behind seemingly inexplicable murders. These are mysteries behind mysteries and while I may never understand them, they continue to grip my mind and my soul. If you are still reading I believe they grip yours, dear reader, too.