Na­tion­wide man-hunt ends in Henry County

The Covington News - - Local News -

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.

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