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In early March of 1997 Purity Knight and her
roommate Lee Perez were the victims of a stalking
incident. A neighbor, Johnny McPhail, spotted the
stalker sometime before 11:00 pm in a tree in front of
the apartment outside their windows. He reported
seeing lights from the tree. Mr. McPhail went out to
check and then pursued the suspect through the woods.
The suspect was not caught. Mr. McPhail described the
suspect as small built, probably about 5'8" with a
light complexion. Recovered at the scene was a 35mm
camera. The developed film showed a number of
photographs taken by the stalker of Ms. Knight.
Several shoe prints were also found.
- Subsequently, Matthew Edward Owens was identified
as a suspect.
- Several days after the stalking incident, Purity
Knight disappeared. According to the interview with
her roommate, Lee Maria Perez, she was last seen early
in the morning at breakfast prior to leaving for the
library and an 8:30 am class. The last person to see
Ms. Knight subsequent to this, was Professor Woolworth
at the University of Mississippi.
- An odd answering machine message was left at the
Perez and Knight apartment. The full text and an audio
version is available in the investigation materials. A
Profile of the Suspect including a voice stress
analysis of the message on the tape can be found in
the evidence files.
- The abductor made first contact with Detective
Armstrong, the lead detective on this case, on May 5,
1997. A white envelope addressed to Detective
Armstrong arrived via first class mail containing a
Geological Survey map. It is a torn piece from an
oversize map. A note was taped to the reverse side of
- The second contact was a single Polaroid of Purity
Knight. It was delivered via USPS on 7 May 97.
Attached to the reverse of the picture was a note.
- The third contact was a second Polaroid of Purity
Knight delivered via USPS on 16 May 97. There was no
- On June 9, 1997 Purity Marie Knight, (AKA Ariadne
Purity Knight), was found dead, buried in a pine grove
near her home. Knight was entombed alive for an
undetermined time in a homemade coffin. She received
air and food through an access passage.
- An excerpt from the incident report prepared by
Detective Armstrong follows:
- Dispatch received a pay phone call from Ben
Archer, 106 Fairlawn Drive, Oxford, at 6:47 AM. Archer
had been out for his morning walk and reported he'd
found a body in a wooden box in the woods. Officers
Graham and Marlowe were on patrol at the time and
picked up Archer at the pay phone. They then proceeded
to the site, Archer led them to the body, which was
buried in a wooded area behind Fairlawn Cemetery.
Marlow radioed for backup and secured the scene. I
arrived with the Forensic team at 7:06 AM.
- The box had been partially uncovered by Archer and
his dog. The perpetrator had apparently created a
ground covering of grass, twigs, and leaves in a
realistic fashion, after burial of the box. The
portion of the box uncovered by Archer and his dog was
positioned under the branches of a briar-like shrub.
Upon peering into the opening, a grill, set into the
wood, was visible about 40 inches below ground level.
Through the grill, the victim's head
- could be seen.
- At the crime scene, Archer described a child he
saw crouched over the burial site. The child was
identified as 9 year old Dylan Tull. In the days
before her death, the boy attempted to assist the
victim. She gave him a note, pleading for help. The
note was never delivered. It was later discovered in
the university library.