Daniel Knab had a thing for cinnamon buns. It wasn’t exactly a craving — more like an addiction. When he wasn’t snacking on them, he was thinking about where to buy some more.
Tragically, Knab’s obsession with the bakery confection has supplied Philadelphia police with one of their very few clues in a frustrating effort to solve the 28-year-old Mayfair resident’s Feb. 10 murder.
Surveillance cameras recorded Knab’s late-night visit to a Holmesburg Wawa less than an hour before he was shot and killed on the 3500 block of Arthur St., a victim of what police figure may have been a robbery gone wrong or perhaps something even more sinister.
So far, however, detectives have no description of the killer, no confirmed motive, nor any eyewitnesses. Knab died of a single gunshot wound of the back.
“It’s frustrating. We don’t have much to go on,” said Detective Ken Rossiter of the homicide unit.
By all accounts, it’s a case of a generally quiet young man meeting a violent death in a relatively quiet neighborhood.
On Feb. 9, Knab and a girlfriend spent the evening watching movies at the Robbins Street home he shared with his mom and stepdad, Ann and Jim Flynn. It was a Thursday. Knab, a George Washington High School graduate, was between jobs as a non-union electrician, his family said.
“He and his girlfriend were watching a movie like they usually did,” Jim Flynn said.
At about 11 p.m., the girlfriend — identified by Knab’s family only as Beth — decided to go home. Knab accompanied her.
At the time, the girlfriend was living on Solly Avenue near Father Judge High School, the Flynns said. From their house, the commute normally would be a 20-block jaunt north on Frankford Avenue via the Route 66 trolley, then a short walk west along Solly.
Yet, even before Knab had begun dating Beth a couple months earlier, the Flynns always were wary of the area around Frankford and Solly. The intersection is at the bottom of a hill in a valley formed by the Pennypack Creek. The centuries-old Pennypack Creek Bridge is nearby, along with a railroad trestle spanning Frankford Avenue and a tree-covered portion of Pennypack Park.
“We always had a bad feeling about that area. It always seemed so dark and dingy,” Jim Flynn said.
The Flynns warned their son to be careful as he walked out their door that night.
“His last words to me were, ‘Trust me, mom. I’ll be fine,’” Ann Flynn said.
Later, the parents learned that the young couple had passed up the bus and decided to walk the whole way.
“She told police they walked home because they wanted to spend time together,” Ann Flynn said, citing her own conversations with detectives.
“He was madly in love. They were together as much as they could possibly be.”
The Northeast Times was unable to locate the girlfriend for comment. Ann Flynn said that her family has had very little contact with her since the shooting.
At 11:48 p.m., the couple stopped at the Wawa at Frankford and Sheffield, about seven blocks south of Solly. Knab bought cinnamon buns and a half-gallon of milk to wash them down.
They left the store and, according to the girlfriend’s account to police, walked to her home. Knab didn’t stay there, but his family can’t imagine he left right away.
“In the beginning of a relationship, you don’t just walk up and leave to end the night,” sister Kelly Knab said.
Detectives have no evidence that the couple encountered anybody in the street or that they had argued with each other.
“There were no text messages or phone calls between Danny and someone. No one had threatened him,” Rossiter said.
At 12:15 a.m., a neighbor reported hearing a gunshot in the area. Patrol officers investigated, but found nothing suspicious and moved onto other duties.
At about 5 a.m., an Arthur Street resident found Knab’s corpse between two parked cars. His feet were on the sidewalk and torso in the street.
“He still had money in his front pocket, a few dollars. And he had his cell phone,” said Knab’s sister, Dawn Bennett.
But his wallet was missing.
It turned up weeks later when a Tacony postal carrier recovered it from a street-corner mailbox and shipped it to the home of Knab’s ex-girlfriend. Her address was still on his driver’s license.
Detectives can’t be sure if Knab’s killer deposited the wallet in the mailbox because of the mailbox’s distant proximity from the shooting scene and because Knab may have innocently dropped the wallet somewhere.
It wouldn’t have been the first time he lost his wallet, Rossiter said, citing information provided by the victim’s family.
Police notified the Flynns of the killing later than morning.
“I woke up and heard screams that I never want to hear again,” Jim Flynn said.
“Whoever it was didn’t just kill Danny, he killed all of us,” Bennett said.
In an effort to generate leads, Rossiter and his colleagues are revisiting other violent-crime investigations involving the neighborhood.
A similar killing occurred on Nov. 15, 2009, on the 7900 block of Craig St. A 22-year-old man was walking home from a friend’s house at 1:43 a.m. when someone shot him multiple times, including once in the head.
The victim, Kenneth Huckstep, lived with his parents and grew up in the neighborhood. He and two pals had walked together along Frankford Avenue, then split up at Rhawn Street. The shooting occurred on a darker, quieter side street.
It remains unsolved.
“We’ve looked into shootings and robberies in the area to see if there are any type of patterns,” Rossiter said. “Right now, we can’t establish any.”
In that case, just as in the Knab killing, it only makes sense that someone saw something in the densely populated residential community. When loud noises interrupt early-morning silence, people tend to look outside.
“Somebody had to look out a window and see something,” Ann Flynn said. “Maybe they’re afraid to come forward. But no family should have to go through this.”
As with other unsolved murders throughout Philadelphia, the city is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers. Witnesses should call the homicide unit at 215-686-3334. ••EndFragment