Nationwide man-hunt ends in Henry County
About 4:30 p.m., Rachael, my wife, heard a dog barking and a man’s voice shouting, “Hey, hey.” Our son, Danny walked past me near the kitchen table, cracked the door to the carport and said, “Two men are headed this way; one of them has a gun.”
I looked out the window, and it hit me that the one in front was Knowles. “That’s him,” I said. Locking the door, I hurried everyone into the front bedroom. Rachael said, “Don’t you want to call the police?”
“No,” I said. “We’ve got to set up some way to defend ourselves; there’s no gun in the house.” Danny ran to the kitchen and returned with a butcher knife. That’s when Becky Stonecypher rang our phone to tell us about the manhunt. She asked that her children stay with us. The men started yelling and desperately knocking on the door. I told Becky the men were at our door, the children screamed; I lost contact with Becky.
“Hit the floor; stay down,” I said. Rachael dialed Henry County police. That was before 911, and how she knew the number is a beyond me; she had never called the police. She gave me the phone, and I said to the dispatcher, “This is Clifford Brewton at the pastorium on Crumbley Road, the man you’re looking for is at our door.” His crisp, commanding voice said, “Don’t let him in.”
By now Knowles and the other man were moving from door to door, trying to get in. Becky recognized one as Terry Clark, a neighbor across the street, not aware that the man with him was the fugitive. She yelled out the window, “Get away from there, you’re scaring those people to death.”
Clark shocked her by saying, “Call the sheriff.”
The 27-year-old hospital maintenance worker had spotted Knowles behind his house with a gun, bleeding. Terry went inside to get his shotgun. He later found later that as he turned around, Knowles tried to shoot him but the gun misfired. Coming out, Clark told Knowles to drop the weapon, and began calling across the street, just yelling for someone, anyone.
Those were high-toned and high tide moments.
Knowles slowly dropped the shotgun he had stolen in a house nearby. They headed for the pastorium. As Knowles neared our door, he peered inside our Buick in the carport. No doubt, wheels were turning in his mind.
After Clark asked Becky to call the police, the two moved on, stopping a moment to get Knowles a drink of water from a hose and giving him a cigarette. Jeff, Becky’s son, had already handed his dad a gun, but Becky told Joe to stay inside. He’d watch; if needed, he’d come out shooting.
Less than three minutes passed since our call to the police. It all ended, when police officers Paul Robbins and Billy Payne seized Knowles at the front steps, handcuffed him face down and stood him up. Clark softly spoke to the lawmen, “Don’t hurt him.”
Becky opened the door. Standing face to face with Knowles, he looked at her with a bizarre, fixed gaze that seem to spell revenge as an army of FBI and GBI agents, state troopers, TV camera crews and lawmen from far and near flooded the yards.
Never had there been a scene or event like this in the history of Henry County.
In any calamity, there is sometimes a hero— the right person who does the right thing. This time it was the easy-going, merciful, Terry Clark.
Looking back, Rachael said, “If things had not worked exactly as they did, any of us could have been Knowles’ next murder victims.” Like everything else that happens, I believe it was all meant to be.
Whether it was the reality of who this beastly creature was, the fear of what might have happened had he gotten inside, or the sheer shock of the unprecedented capture— we’ll never know. All we know is, that when intended, we had lived through something we could never forget.
Knowles was secretly taken to the Douglas County jail while evidence was gathered.
Then Knowles offered to lead Sheriff Earl Lee, and GBI agent Ronnie Angel to Henry County, to find in the woods the murder weapon that belonged to the slain Florida patrolman. On Dec. 18, 1974, they motored out Interstate 20 for Henry County. Knowles, skillfully opened his handcuffs with a gem clip, raised up, and reached over into the front seat for Sheriff Lee’s revolver. There was a fierce struggle for the gun; the car careened off the expressway and smashed into a fence. Knowles was shot and killed by Ron Angel in the frantic fight.
An evil wind had blown across America had ceased when “he who lived by the sword,” met a weird twist of justice.
The irony of destiny is that at the highest point of incorrigible rebellion, it is but a step from swift overthrow.