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Police say prostitute killer called in

Homicide detective Michael Celona was working on his home computer a Friday night in December when his pager went off.

An Indiana man had phoned the St. Petersburg Police Department with a tip about a long-unsolved slaying of a prostitute whose body was left near a trash bin. The man said his name was Brad, and he left his number.

When Celona called back, Bradley Brent Knox said his brother who lives in St. Petersburg had killed the woman. He said the body was placed in a white laundry bag, along with a man's golf shirt.

Classic rock 'n' roll played in the background as Knox baited the detective with details, saying only enough to keep the conversation alive.

"He made it sound like he needed to get this off his chest," Celona said. "But at the same time, he wanted to know if there was a reward."

Until the phone call, the investigation into the 1995 death of Barbara Jean Faulkner had stalled. Police had few leads; an arrest seemed unlikely.

As investigators looked further into Knox's claims, they discovered that his brother who lived in St. Petersburg was not involved. Knox made that up because the two had feuded over money.

On Thursday, police announced that they arrested Knox in Arizona, where he moved a month ago, and charged him with murder. Knox, 37, signed court documents agreeing to return to Florida.

His arrest closes one of many unsolved murder cases involving women who traded sex for money or crack cocaine.

Faulkner, 33, was working the streets near 34th Street and Fifth Avenue N on Oct. 1, 1995, when she met Knox, police say. They walked to his mobile home at 3914 Eighth Ave N.

"One thing led to another," said homicide Sgt. Glen Moore. "Things didn't go like they planned."

Faulkner was strangled and her body was placed inside a crisp white laundry bag measuring 36 inches long. Investigators think Knox carried the bag to a trash bin across the street from his trailer. A man looking for aluminum cans found the bag near the trash bin the next morning.

Faulkner was the fourth slain prostitute whose body was found in or near trash bins in 1995. Like dozens of other prostitutes in the county, Faulkner had been questioned by detectives after the earlier slayings. She also had known one of the other murdered women.

At first, medical examiners could not determine how Faulkner was killed. Though they said she died of homicidal violence, Faulkner also suffered from AIDS.

Investigators soon focused on a man who was serving probation on child-molestation charges, going as far as seizing carpet from his mother's station-wagon. But the case did not produce many leads.

Then came Bradley Knox's telephone call at 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 6.

"He didn't carefully choose his words, but he knew to hold back information," said Celona. "He gave me some particulars that were not public knowledge."

Such as the fact that a man's golf shirt had been found inside the laundry bag.

Cindy Cummings, the lead detective, eventually went to Indiana to question Knox in his trailer at the Valley View Mobile Home Park. Again, he blamed his brother, Ken Knox. He said he had seen Ken with the woman. And afterward, he said, Ken told him about the killing.

Ken Knox was cleared by investigators. He said Thursday that he had no contact with his brother in the three months before and after the killings. "I was shocked and I was mad he tried to blame me," Ken Knox said.

Not long after the detective interviewed him in Huntington, Brent Knox moved to Arizona. He rented an apartment in mid-February in large complex called Heather Ridge in suburban Mesa. In the month he lived there, neighbors said Thursday, he kept mostly to himself.

Cummings tracked him there, confronting him with inconsistencies in his earlier remarks. While a team of undercover detectives kept him under surveillance, she returned to Florida and obtained a warrant charging him in the Faulkner slaying.

She went back to Arizona this week and arrested him.

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