Survivor of ‘Casanova Killer’ reveals why she wanted murderer to fall in love with her: 'All hell broke loose'

Barbara Mabee Abel was eager to get home after work tofind outwhy her twin sister never answered her phone call.

She quickly made a horrifying discovery.

It was November 1974andAbel, a single mom to a six-year-old boy, was working as a copywriter at a West Beach, Florida,radiostation. She was living with Beverly, who was born with Cerebral palsy. The women resided in theirmother’shome. The matriarch had passed away in May of that year.

“Iwas calling Beverly all day, andshe never answered,”Abel recalled to Fox News Digital.”I knew something was wrong. After I picked up my son from nursery school and drove into the driveway, I noticed the lightswere on in the back porch. The lights normallyweren’ton. My son Dale and I yelled for Beverly. No answer. Dale runs into his bedroomandI go into the kitchen togoget a drink of water. I had the faucet going on and everything.”


Barbara Mabee Abel wrote about her experience with serial killer John Paul Knowles in a book titled “One Survivor.” (Authors Bridge)

“All of a sudden,”said Abel.”I heard a man. He said,‘Don’tturn around, orI’llkill you.’ Then all hell broke loose.”

Abel, who wrote the book, “One Survivor,”is sharing her encounter with John Paul Knowles, coined as the“Casanova Killer”by the press, in the Investigation Discovery (ID) true-crime series”People Magazine Investigates: Surviving a Serial Killer.”It features interviews with survivors, as well as loved ones and investigators.

When Abel first laid eyes on Knowles, she immediately spotted the sawed-off shotgunthat wasresting by his leg.

A young Barbara Mabee Abel. (Courtesy of Barbara Mabee Abel)

“Iknew I had to use reverse psychology,”Abel explained.”Ididn’twant anyone to get hurt. He kept telling me about killing someone, andhe tied up my son with my sister in the bed. The neighbor kept knocking on the door. I thought he was going to get his gun and shoot the neighbor, shoot us all…I thought I had to be the best actress in the world.That’swhen I said I would ride withhim,wherever he wanted to go, as long as no one was hurt.”

“I needed him to think that I was in love with him,” said Abel. “I didn’t want him to take my son or hurt anyone. So I gave it my best performance to help us all live.”

Before Abel left with Knowles, she kissed her sister goodbye. Blood was dripping fromBeverly’smouth. She was naked, bound and gagged. Abel promised her that everything would be all right. A smug Knowles declared that he had attempted to rape Beverly.

Knowles tookAbel’scar and thefamily’smortgage money. In exchange for Dale and Beverly staying alive, Knowles took Abel with him.


Barbara Mabee Abel is seen with her son and mother. Abel’s mother died a few months before she encountered John Paul Knowles. (Courtesy of Barbara Mabee Abel)

“Iknew I had to make him fall in love with me to save my life,”said Abel.”I knew something badwas going tohappen to me if Ididn’tmake him fall in love with me. I knew in my heart of hearts that he probably had hurt somebody before he came to our home. He bragged about it. But I certainlydidn’tknow it was murder. I thought he had just beaten somebody up to rob them.

“As he wasdriving on the road, he started talking about his family. Then he started talking about killing people because he had done it already…He became comfortable with me. I knew he liked me,soI had to take advantage of that. I needed to stay alive.”

Knowles, who had already terrorized the South, had been linked to at least 18 murders by investigators, the episode revealed. One officer said Knowles was”more vicious than Ted Bundy.”The Orlando native, known for being a charming smooth talker with”gaunt good looks,”targeted men, women and children.

Florida parolee, Paul John Knowles, is shown in this Nov. 1974 photo. (AP)

Knowles took Abel to a localmotelwhere he tied her up and repeatedly raped her.

“The sheets were tiedaround my ankles,”Abel tearfully said.”My wrists were also tied by the bedsheets.He put a gag in my mouth. I was lying on my backand,all of a sudden, I saw my mother. She was wearing this beautiful white gown…That’swhen I knew I was going to be OK.”

At one point, Knowles turned on the TV. The news reported that Abel was missing, and that her son had freed himself. Abel learned that Dale rushed next door to his neighbor,whocalled 911. Police were looking for Knowles.


Barbara Mabee Abel left with John Paul Knowles in hopes he wouldn’t murder her son (pictured here) and sister. (Courtesy of Barbara Mabee Abel.)

“He was happy to see himself on TV,”said Abel.”That’swhen I knew that he was telling the truth. He had killed before.

Abel was held captive for 18 hours. She made it through the night with little sleep, praying that Knowleswouldn’tkill her. Once the sun rose, a hungry Knowles took Abel to a nearby diner.

Abel’sstomach rumbled as she smelled the fresh bread. As Knowles chowed down on a hearty breakfast of eggs, toast and hash browns with orange juice, Abel looked around, hoping someone would recognize her. ButKnowles’gun,which wasby his side, reminded her not to make any sudden movements.

The pair returned to the motel where Knowles raped Abel again.

Serial killer Paul John Knowles is escorted by law enforcement to jail on November 20, 1974.  (Billy Downs/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Hours later, the news reported on Knowles again. But this time, Knowleswasn’timpressed with how he wasbeing portrayed. He took his gun and pointed it atAbel’shead, shouting”bang, bang.”He laughed hysterically.

Knowles tied up Abel again before heading outside to make a phone call. Abel frantically looked around and then turned her attention to the nightstand. There was the key to the motel room.

Knowles returned to the room but couldn’t get inside.The door was locked. Both he and Abel realized that the key was still inside.


Barbara Mabee Abel told Fox News Digital she saw a vision of her late mother, which convinced her she would survive. (Courtesy of Barbara Mabee Abel)

“He told me he loved me andthat hecouldn’tget into the room,”said Abel.”Then he took off.I was trying to figure out howthe heck I was going toget this key while still being tied up.That’swhen the dear Lord helped me.I saw some glassandItried to get it to break, so I couldcut the bedsheets off my wrist.Thatdidn’twork. Eventually, I figured out the nightstand had a glass tabletop with a corner thatwas already broken.That’show I got free, believe it or not.”

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Charles Campbell pulled Knowles over during a routine traffic stop. Knowles grabbedCampbell’sgun and held him hostage.

Using the patrol car, Knowles pulled over driver James Mayer. Knowles drove both men to Pulaski County, Georgia, where he handcuffed them to a tree and shot them in the head.

Knowles was captured by police.

Serial killer Paul John Knowles died in 1974. He was 28. (Billy Downs/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

In December 1974, Knowlestooklaw enforcement officials to the scene of one of his crimes. He used a paperclip to open one of his handcuffs before lunging for Douglas County Sheriff EarlLee’sgun. Knowles was shot in the chest three times by GBI agent Ronnie Angel. He was 28.

Barbara Mabee Abel (seen here with her sister Beverly) said the day John Knowles died was “one of the happiest days of my life.” (Courtesy of Barbara Mabee Abel)

“Ithink that was one of the happiest days of my life,”said Abel.”It was wonderful… because hewouldn’tkill anybody else. We praised the Lord.”

According to reports, Knowles claimed he killed 35 people. However, authorities said he was known to embellish his crimes.

Abel said that following Knowles’ death, shesuffered from PTSD.Butit washer faith in Godthathelped her family rebuild.

Barbara Mabee Abel said it was her faith in God that gave her strength over the years. (Courtesy of Barbara Mabee Abel)

“Ichose to forgive John Paul Knowles for what he did to me,”said Abel.”I did not want to be another statistic… I chose to be a survivor.”

It would take years before Beverly and Dale spoke candidly about the crime.

Barbara Mabee Abel’s sister Beverly died in 2019 from cancer. (Courtesy of Barbara Mabee Abel)

“Wedidn’thave shrinks back then,”said Abel.”They had to go through their demons. But the dear Lord was on our side. Andthat’show we made it – withGod’shelp.”

Barbara Mabee Abel with the “love of my life,” her husband Jim. (Courtesy of Barbara Mabee Abel)

Abel went on to find love.She’sbeen married to Jim Abel for 43 years.

“He’s6’6’and good-looking,”Abel chuckled.”… I was just so blessed to meet Jim becausehe’smy soulmate now.”

Today, Abel hopes her story will give other survivors of a crime hope that they can make it to the other side.


Barbara Mabee Abel with her family today. (Courtesy of Barbara Mabee Abel)

“Nobody knows what life is going to bring,”she said.”I want to help people. I want to help people come out of the darkness. Just like I did.”

"People Magazine Investigates: Surviving the Casanova Killer" airs May 19 at 9 p.m.

Stephanie Nolasco covers entertainment at

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