Paul Knockel (Courtesy WHO-TV)

Paul Knockel (Courtesy WHO-TV)

Paul Joseph Knockel

Missing Person

Name: Paul Joseph Knockel
Age at Report: 53
DOB: October 26, 1937
Weight: 265 lbs.
Height: 5′ 10″
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Brown
Incident Type: Endangered / physical
Missing From: 2105 Washington St.
Dubuque, IA
Dubuque County
Investigating Agency: Dubuque Police Department
Case Number: 90-31654
NCIC Number: M-460734448
NamUs MP # 27736
Missing Since: November 26, 1990


UPDATE – Victim’s Vehicle Pulled From River

On Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, Dubuque police responded to a report of a submerged vehicle in the Mississippi River. 

Officials identified the vehicle as a 1981 Mercury Zephyr, and stated the car belonged to Paul Joseph Knockel, who’d been reported missing from Dubuque on Nov. 26, 1990.

An Oct. 26, 2023 press release stated:

Dubuque Police Department NEWS RELEASE

On October 12th, 2023 the Dubuque Police Department was notified that employees from Newt Marine Services, while conducting dredge operations in the Mississippi River near the Hawthorne Boat Ramp, located a submerged vehicle. This vehicle was pulled from the river and identified as a 1981 Mercury Zephyr. Investigators from the Dubuque Police Department were assisted by Wenzel Towing in recovering the vehicle. During the subsequent investigation and while processing this vehicle, investigators were able to identify it as belonging to Paul Joseph Knockel who had been reported missing in Dubuque on November 25th, 1990. Knockel was 53 at the time he was reported missing by family and his case has remained open since then. No human remains were located while investigators processed this vehicle. Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to contact Investigator Corporal Clark Egdorf at 563-589-4430 or Anonymous tips can be submitted online via the Dubuque Police Department’s Official Page: or by calling Dubuque/Jo Daviess Crime Stoppers at (800)747-0117.

Adventures With Purpose (AWP) is a Dive Team who Searches Underwater for Missing People FREE of Charge for Families and Law Enforcement. Using sonar technology, they searched for Paul Knockel in February 2022, and though they weren’t successful with that particular dive, they have succeeded in finding dozens of missing persons. The team located Iowa Missing Person Ethan Kazmerzak on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. AWP located Kazmerzak’s 2006 Volkswagen in a pond northwest of Hampton, and with the help of the Story County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, worked together to remove the vehicle from the water. Kazmerzak’s remains were found inside the Volkswagen.

Many thanks go out to the AWP team for providing answers to families across the nation.

Case Summary

Paul Joseph Knockel, 53, was reported missing to the Dubuque Police Department in Dubuque, Iowa, on Monday, November 26, 1990.

Dubuque County in Iowa
Dubuque County in Iowa
Dubuque in Dubuque CountyDubuque in Dubuque County

In November 1990, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported that Knockel last had contact with family members on Monday, November 12, and that Knockel’s car was last seen by a family member the morning of November 13, parked along U.S. Route 151 less than one mile east of the Dubuque-Wisconsin bridge near the “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign on the roadway’s south side.

Knockel, a lifelong bachelor with no children, missed his usual Thanksgiving dinner with relatives and they reported him missing the following Monday after he failed to show up at a job at the Swiss Colony mail order gift warehouse in Monroe, Wisconsin, Dubuque police told the Telegraph Herald. Police also said Knockel was last seen Friday, November 17, driving along a highway in Grant County, Wisconsin.

The exact date of Knockel’s official disappearance is unknown.

WHO-TV’s Aaron Brilbeck reported on Oct. 8, 2010 about Knockel’s unsolved disappearance as part of Channel 13’s weekly Iowa cold case series. His report follows.

Story by WHO-TV Channel 13 Reporter Aaron Brilbeck | Oct. 8, 2010

DUBUQUE, IA — It’s a cold case that brings us all the way to the woods of Wisconsin. An Iowa man disappeared; even his car vanished along Highway 151.


Courtesy photo Telegraph Herald and WHO-TV

Police still have no clues about what happened to Paul Knockel or where he went.

They say someone just can’t vanish. But Tim Westemeyer of Des Moines disagrees.

“People do vanish,” Westemeyer said in an interview with Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck for a story that aired Oct. 8, 2010. “I’m not sure how they do vanish. But I know for a fact that they just up and vanish.” And Westemeyer should know. Twenty years ago, his uncle did just that.

No Show for Thanksgiving

It was November of 1990, and Paul Knockel of Dubuque didn’t show up for Thanksgiving dinner with his family. That wasn’t like him. Knockel, who never married and never had children, lived for spending time with family.

“The fun times we had with him as kids,” nephew Dennis Noel remembers. “Growing up and everything. Some of the fun things that we did together, I guess as an uncle and nephew.”

WHO-TV’s Aaron Brilbeck reports on Paul Knockel’s unsolved disappearance. Air Date: Oct. 8, 2010

Concerned, family members went to Knockel’s house at 2105 Washington Street. They found his wallet and watch, even his shoes. But Knockel and his car were gone. The next day, the family spotted what they thought was his car — a 1981 red Mercury Zephyr, parked along Route 151 just over the Wisconsin border. A few hours later the car was gone. It, and Knockel, haven’t been seen since.

“He definitely knew something was happening.”

Family members believe he may have been abducted at his home and murdered.

Courtesy photo WHO-TV
Neither Paul Knockel nor his red 1981 Mercury Zephyr have been seen since November 1990.

“I think he was murdered, yes,” Noel said. “I would have to say that was what happened. There was no accident involved.”

Family members say that would explain why Knockel’s shoes and wallet — things he had with him every day — were left behind.

“Yeah. He definitely knew something was happening,” Noel said. “His wallet was on the kitchen table and his good shoes were left there and everything. We didn’t even know what he had on for shoes when he left but apparently he knew something bad was coming down.”

The question is, why.

Knockel was a simple man. He went to work every day and didn’t go out much. Family members say he had a learning disability, but he would never just take off. Police say he didn’t appear to have any enemies or be involved in anything he shouldn’t have been.

lt-scott-baxter-dubuque-police Courtesy photo WHO-TV
Lt. Scott Baxter

“[He] doesn’t seem to be,” said Dubuque Police Lt. Scott Baxter. “Everybody we talked to, our investigation, just the totality of the investigation, there’s nothing to indicate this individual led a seedy lifestyle. He didn’t have any drug or alcohol problems. Didn’t drink much at all.”

River creates spin on community

After the disappearance, police scoured the wooded area where family members saw the car. No clues turned up.

Since then, police have followed up on dozens of leads. Again, nothing. Investigators believe Knockel may have wound up in the Mississippi River either by accident, or as a suicide or homicide. But that’s just a theory.

“The river does create a different kind of spin on our community,” Lt. Baxter said. “Strong currents. And generally speaking we usually recover bodies that are disposed of in the river. Not all the time. And depending on the circumstances, if the body is contained in a vehicle, that creates another challenge to us as well.”

In other words, a body in a car won’t always come to the surface. Police plan to follow up on any leads, but admit they’re no closer to solving this case today than they were 20 years ago. The family wants answers, and they want to give Knockel a proper burial if he is dead. They say a simple man, a good man who never hurt anyone, deserves that.

“Yes. It would give him peace,” Westemeyer said. “It would give us all peace, too.”

About Paul Knockel

Paul Joseph Knockel was born October 26, 1937, and was 53 years old at the time he went missing.

Paul wore metal rimmed glasses and was dependent on corrective lenses. He also wore both upper and lower dentures.

Earlier in his life, Paul was injured in an industrial accident and suffered severe breaks in his lower right leg and ankle. His right leg would show evidence of the breaks as well as surgical scars.

He has no known tattoos.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Paul Knockel’s unsolved disappearance please contact Lt. Scott Baxter at the Dubuque Police Department at (563) 589-4410.



50 Responses to Paul Knockel

  1. Cathy D says:

    Paul is my uncle. His car was found in the Mississippi River near the Hawthorne boat ramp around Oct 11/12 as Newt Marine was dredging the river to make it deeper from the current drought we are experiencing. It was caught on the dredging equipment and pulled up and the detective said it was buried under around 7 feet of mud/silt. There were NO remains in the vehicle. Another vehicle was pulled up as well, a 1970 Pontiac GTO. No remains in that one either. At this point we still don’t know where Paul is.

  2. Scot says:

    From KGAN website today (Thurs Oct 26, 2023)

  3. Courtney T says:

    I am from Dubuque, Iowa. It was in the news today that Paul’s car was pulled from the Mississippi River on October, 12th!

  4. Crystal says:

    The car was found 10/12/2023- No remains found in the vehicle.
    THONLINE released this today:

    A recent dredging operation along the Mississippi River resulted in the retrieval and identification of a vehicle belonging to a Dubuque man who went missing over 30 years ago, police said.

    A 1981 Mercury Zephyr belonging to Paul J. Knockel, of Dubuque, was located earlier this month near the Hawthorne Street boat ramp in Dubuque by employees from Newt Marine Service, according to Dubuque Police Department Lt. Brendan Welsh.

    Knockel was reported missing on Nov. 25, 1990, after failing to show up at a family gathering and missing work for several days. The location of the vehicle is the first major update in the case since his disappearance.

  5. John Dalton says:

    FYI, Police indicate local dredging company found Pauls vehicle Oct 12, and Police recovered what they could shortly afterwards. No remains were found but the entire vehicle was silted in.

  6. Vic Mowery says:

    10/26/23 — For Immediate Release

    DUBUQUE, Iowa – On October 12th, 2023 the Dubuque Police Department was notified that employees from Newt Marine Services, while conducting dredge operations in the Mississippi River near the Hawthorne Boat Ramp, located a submerged vehicle. This vehicle was pulled from the river and identified as a 1981 Mercury Zephyr. Investigators from the Dubuque Police Department were assisted by Wenzel Towing in recovering the vehicle. During the subsequent investigation and while processing this vehicle, investigators were able to identify it as belonging to Paul Joseph Knockel who had been reported missing in Dubuque on November 25th, 1990. Knockel was 53 at the time he was reported missing by family and his case has remained open since then. No human remains were located while investigators processed this vehicle. Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to contact Investigator Corporal Clark Egdorf at 563-589-4430 or Anonymous tips can be submitted online via the Dubuque Police Department’s Official Page: or by calling Dubuque/Jo Daviess Crime Stoppers at (800)747-0117.

  7. Vic Mowery says:

    They just pulled his car out of the Mississippi river in Dubuque. No human remains were found. The Dubuque PD is continuing to investigate.

  8. peter mayr says:

    HOLLY GOTZ ?? serious ?? Holy Gods is making a very silly but simple joke I would say ..

    • Holly Gotz says:

      No jokes here. I reported to the Dubuque Police who I believe is the assailant , a Dubuque resident. I also reported to cemetery officials. I had the grave that is full that is supposed to be empty probed in 2016 & 2017. It went squish. It tapped nothing. I stated this in court disposing the assailant. When he found out I knew he immediately rented a cemented truck out of Duluth MN. and was ticketed on his way back because an officer spotted liquid coming out of the back. He got a misdimeanor.
      He was driving the cement truck without a permit. I could see a trowel mark that wasnt there before. Now when you probe the grave it hits cement mimicking a casket. The courts will not allow me to dig an unknown person. It is considered an autopsy by Iowa law. An autopsy can only be performed if a crime has been committed in Iowa. In a certain sense how can a crime be proven if you can’t dig. I’ve gone round and round with every authority. I’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars trying to rectify. The Dubuque police cited it wasnt there jurisdiction in Cass County. Cass County would not look into. Meanwhile the cemetery plot that was my mother’s who is not buried there was to go to me. I can not be there as it is full. Is it Paul? I can tell you the outline of the person from above ground view was face down, very tall and the first thing I said was this person does not have any shoes on. Like they were snatched from a home. This is a very rural area. I was told by the cemetery clerk a few people have randomly shown up over the years. I was horrified by this statement. If I can see they are not properly buried they no full well. I passed on the info. to your family. My hands are tied.

      • Holly Gotz says:

        And by the way the assailant Im talking about was driving a mercury zephyr at the time of my grandma’s funeral in 1994. I and my sister thot his car was so strange because it had nice parts to it but a primer paint color. We were never taken to the correct cemetery. I believe because we would have noticed the strangeness at that time. I never saw my grandma buried. I did exhumed her spot only to find it was not her casket. Could not get a lawyer to touch it to go forward with opening the casket, considered an autopsy. I did find info that she was cremated. Where are her ashes? The timeline and events of what happened to my family and our cemetery plots eerily match up with Paul missing. The grave and body of the unknown person was dug originally in the winter it appeared. Hard to dig deep and also preserving the person for a time. Making an outline above ground.
        If Paul were Hoffa, I might have gotten somewhere.

        • Cathy D says:

          there was no way anyone was driving Paul’s car to your grandma’s funeral because his car was buried under 7 feet of mud in the Mississippi River. They found it a few weeks ago. So take your BS somewhere else and stop trolling this case file.

        • Holly Gotz says:

          I’m so glad they found his car. Been praying for that. I hope they can glean more leads from this. I hope the authorities will consider a local person put it there, is a boater, and has boat(s) that are docked out of Dubuque. The person knows the area such as boat launches.

          • Sara says:

            What is his name? If authorities don’t believe you, what’s the harm of telling me? Or make an anonymous tip to the police department. Please! Or more tips here. Was it someone he knew? A co worker or neighbor or just a random stranger? You are either full of shit or the time to speak up is now.

            • Holly Gotz says:

              Sara, I believe you are Paul’s niece? I talked extensively to you on the phone, a few years back. I gave you a name and a picture. The police promised they would question him. But evidences have to add up, and I don’t know if the lead is correct. There were too many coincidences not to say something. And I truly hope this gets solved.

          • Cathy D says:

            go find something else to do, besides troll this case. You know NOTHING factual.

            • Holly Gotz says:

              Cathy, not trying to be upsetting. So sorry. I did give a name to Sara and the police. It’s only based on my experience, a tip. I will respectfully not post. Love and prayers to your family.

              • Sara says:

                You Nevet Ever talked to me Holly so you need to stop now. The entire family has discussed this and not one person has talked to you! STOP lying. We all assume you are nuts because your story is full of lies. Not one single person from my family has ever talked to you. Do you think we don’t communicate? Duh!!! Car was found, no primer paint like you said in your comment. Now that you include me in your lie gives me 100% proof you are lying!

                • Holly Gotz says:

                  Sara, please refer to posts here April 8, 2019 and April 11, 2019. I did in fact receive a phone call from someone saying they were Sara. One of the things discussed was your uncle had a pin or plate in his leg from an injury. That he was handicapped or a little slower and might have been taken advantage of because of this. I was looking for things identifiable that would deteriorate like glasses, dentures etc. if I were able to exhume the unknown person at my famly cemetery plot in Iowa. The conversation was almost two hours. If it wasn’t you, that is alarming!
                  And yes, the mercury zephyr this man was driving wasn’t the same. Now known for sure!
                  Regardless my comments are not helpful, so I will leave it there.

                  • Sara says:

                    You gave your phone number in this chat and the entire family discussed that contacting you was not a good idea. Honestly we were a little spooked – you could have been the killer trying to see what we knew. Or what we really thought was you could be a mentally unstable person that could harm someone in your delusional state. If you received a call it was not from our family. He did break his leg, I have knowledge of that but not aware of any metal pins or plates. If you ever mentioned a name to ANY family member, we would’ve know immediately. Social media makes it really easy to talk to family members.I would definitely say it’s alarming you apparently gave information to a random person using my name. Investigators have never mentioned taking to you but I’ve never asked them either. But I am still curious who was driving a similar vehicle that made you think there was a connection. Did the person know Paul? Live by him? Work with him? Who is it that you say has boat(s) docked in Dubuque? Someone you said has great knowledge of the boat docks in Dubuque. If there was another crime committed it should be investigated too. Concerning Paul, the car appears to be the same color with no primer as far as I can see. The hood was pretty tore up but didn’t appear to be any other color besides the original maroon color. I also don’t believe someone would drive a car around for several years hours away only to drive back a few hours to dispose of it in the river. Thank you for your concern but at this time I don’t believe there’s any evidence that the vehicle you seen was the vehicle Paul owned.

  9. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    I wonder if the Dubuque Police, ever ran a check on the vehicle VIN number. I recommend they contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau. They could check their databases and see if they come up with anything. This is like doing a Carfax check before buying a used car to make sure it was not damaged.

    • Holly Gotz says:

      I have wondered the same thing. Parts of that car like the tires, grill etc could be in a junkyard. But a chop shop would have been a smarter choice
      No record that way….

  10. I’ll never forget that time in my young life!! I was only 10, but I still have lots of memories of him!

  11. Cathy Dick says:

    He has literally fallen off the face of the earth….but his killer(s) is/are the only one (s) who know where he is. He was not capable of going elsewhere to live on his own.

  12. Probably in a pond or lake???

  13. Diana Wilson says:

    Wow! His car has never been either either???? How do you hide a car????

    • Holly Gotz says:

      You paint it. Or part it. The car is the key to the mystery. The person driving the car is the murderer. I have a person in my grave in Cass County Iowa. It is a man face down and has no casket. It has been there for sometime. They keep reseeding the grass around him as the body has emitted it poisons. A year ago someone pumped cement under him to mimic a casket. I have been working on this for 3 1\2 years. I have a missing person in my personal grave. Dubuque police was contacted in the spring about this
      My grandma is missing by the hands of a man out of Dubuque. I am looking for her. She wasnt buried. I think because Paul got put in our plot first. Paul was killed because he wouldnt go in on a bad deal towards my grandma. Who died in 1994. Her assests were taken over in March of 90. Paul wouldnt help steal it. Therefore he knew too much. He was taken out in a crime of passion by someone he knew. Not listing the assailant, but i have told the Dubuque police.
      This is my theory.
      Was there an item of crystal or a rock, that possible was an award of his. He was hit over the head with. When the car was on the bridge he was in the trunk. The assailant threw that item that became a weapon under that bridge
      Proceeded through Wisconsin with him in the car trying to figure out where to put him.
      He ended up in Northwest Iowa in my cemetery plot.
      The perfect murder.

      • Sara Kammerude says:

        Holly, Paul Knockel is my great uncle. Any info you can give us would be greatly appreciated. I’m not sure I understand your previous post where you say you have a man in your cemetery plot you later say that Paul is buried in your cemetery plot and somebody pumped cement under him. Who buried him there? and who is pumping cement under him? is the cemetery aware he’s there?
        As far as you stating that this is your “theory” what parts are factual, how he died, or that he was killed? Do you know for sure Paul was murdered? I didn’t understand why someone isn’t investigating the body in your cemetery plot?
        I don’t care about all the details anymore, I just want to find my great uncle and respectfully lay him to rest.
        Please help us bring him home.
        Thank you,
        Sara Kammerude

        • Holly Gotz says:

          Sara Kammerude please call me. Holly Gotz 586 339 6066. I will explain what i know to you. I do think your uncle is in my cemetery plot.

      • Phil says:

        Holly, What you are writing sounds way out there! so, are you saying that someone put an entire human being in your cemetery plot and then sometime later filled it up with cement? at the first glance, why did you not report that to the cemetery/police? something isn’t adding up and I hope for the sake of this family, You aren’t saying this to just say it. What if this person in your plot is not Paul? this could prove heartbreaking to a family that needs and deserves closure. When it comes down to a person missing, assumptions or guesses do no good as it becomes a waste of time,resources and so forth. Not trying to sound aggressive, it just seems odd.

        • Holly Gotz says:

          Yes it is indeed odd. I didn’t make the crazy story, I only tell what is in fact crazy. Finding out who this random person is my cemetery plot would aid someone’s family. I investigated 5 years straight. I strongly believe it is Paul. Two years specifically looking at missing people in Iowa. I started shaking when when he popped up. I read his bio with my mouth dropping to the floor. I begged the Dubuque police to question the person I believe responsible. Don’t know if they ever did.

  14. Cathy Dick says:

    His car has never been found. He was my uncle.

    • Holly Gotz says:

      Cathy please see my response below. I feel strongly i know where Paul is…

      • Tracy Noel says:

        Paul Knockel’s car was found in the Mississippi River in Dubuque on October 12th. Your story needs to be heard and investigated further. Contact the Telegraph Herald.

      • Courtney Tuthill says:

        I am a resident of Dubuque, and it just broke today that Paul’s car was pulled from the Mississippi on October 12th!

  15. Sandy Newcomb-hagen, in Aaron Brilbeck’s story on Paul Knockel (aired Oct. 8, 2010), the ICC page states that Knockel’s relatives spotted what they “thought” was his car, but that a few hours later it was gone. Toward the end of the story, Dubuque Police Lt. Scott Baxter is quoted as saying that even though they usually recover bodies that are disposed of in the river, that “depending on the circumstances, if the body is contained in a vehicle, that creates another challenge to us as well.” According to Aaron’s story and his interview with Lt. Baxter, neither Paul Knockel nor his car were ever located. The person who posted a comment about the car being found said Knockel was the uncle of a friend, but provided no further details. I’ll check with the Dubuque PD to confirm whether or not what she said is true. Thank you for writing and your concerns for Paul’s family. All best, Jody at ICC

    • Nelli2119 says:

      The car was actually pulled from the Mississippi River in Dubuque about 2 weeks ago and the Dubuque Police have not said a word about it.

  16. I am assuming this article is 3 years old, if not recent. Either way, according to this, they have not found him OR his vehicle. The family saw it, but went back and it was gone and never seen again. Is this information correct? According to a family friend in the post, the article is incorrect. Granted it has been 23 years since he disappeared, something as simple as wether they found the car or not, could play a big role in the closure for the family. We, the public could be looking for a vehicle that has been found, our not looking for a vehicle that we should be looking for. That can hold a lot of clues as to his disappearance. Can someone give accurate up to date info on this? I hope he is found for the families closure. I know what it is like to have the emptiness left in those left behind by such circumstances. My thoughts and prayers are with the family

  17. Cathy Dick says:

    this is my Uncle…if anyone out there has ANY information, please contact the Dubuque police. Closure is so important for families of missing individuals…

  18. I wish for some some closure for his family and friends. know you are in my thoughts.

  19. Theresa says:

    Is it possible he could be: NamUs UP Case Number: 10363

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Theresa, the resemblances (particularly nose and square jaw) are remarkable. The page at doesn’t provide a “ruled out” list, but at least DNA samples have been submitted even though tests are not yet complete.

      The age, estimated date of death, and height are right on target as well. They believe UP # 10363 was placed in a cooler and frozen for an unknown period of time before later being placed in the river, and the body could have washed down to the gulf area or the perpetrator could have driven further down river before dumping the body.

      I’m going to check with my contact person at NamUs to see if she can give me any timeline as to when they expect the DNA results or whether they’ve already ruled out Paul Knockel. I’ll keep you posted.

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