The Georgia Bureau has announced remains of 13 year old, Ima Jean Sanders who went missing in Warner Robins in 1974, are linked to a serial killer.
In April 1976, skeletal remains of a young female were found in a wooded area off GA Highway 96 in Peach County.
In January 2011, DNA samples compiled from Ima Jeans Sanders' mother and sister match the DNA from the remains that were found in 1976.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was notified of this match in July, 2011 and informed the Warner Robins Police Department (WRPD), which had original jurisdiction for Sanders' disappearance in 1974.
Evidence from Sanders' murder led authorities to believe Paul Knowles, a known serial killer, was responsible.
In 1974, Knowles went on a crime spree, murdering 18 people including Ima Jean Sanders.
On November 17, 1974, he was taken into custody in near McDonough after kidnapping a Florida State Trooper and another man near Perry, FL. He then murdered them in Pulaski County. Knowles was later shot to death by a GBI agent on December 18, 1974, while attempting to escape from custody.
According to the GBI, during Knowles' killing spree, he mailed audio taped confessions of his crimes to a Florida attorney. The tapes were never publically disclosed, however, there were rumors they included Knowles' confession to murdering a teenage girl near Macon. The tapes were destroyed in a flood at the Federal Court House in Macon before law enforcement could retrieve them.
Investigators were able to retrieve a letter written in 1975 to the GBI by the then-U.S. Attorney that summarized Knowles' taped confessions of crimes he committed in Georgia.
In one summary, the letter states:
"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. 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. Approximately two weeks later, he returned to the location and found that the body had been moved eight or ten feet away apparently by animals. The body was greatly deteriorated and barely identifiable as a human being. Knowles found her jawbone and buried it in the area."
Sanders' jaw bone was not recovered for the reasons stated in this release, investigators are confident Ima Jean Sanders was murdered by Paul John Knowles in August 1974. Her remains are being released to remaining family for burial.