On October 7th 2019, the FBI confirmed that Samuel Little is the most prolific serial killer in U.S history. Investigators had verified 50 murders based on the serial killer’s confessions. Now aged 79-years-old, he was already serving three consecutive life sentences at California State Prison when he confessed to murdering 93 women across 19 states between 1970 and 2005.
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Despite being relatively unknown to the public; his killing spree now ranks him above other notorious monsters such as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Gary Ridgway as the worst serial killer in America.
Samuel Little managed to hunt down and kill 93 women then get away with it for close to four decades. Shockingly, the real victim count might be even higher than the current confirmed numbers as the FBI is still working on other murder cases they believe are also connected to the serial killer.
Christie Palazzolo, a crime analyst with the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, or ViCAP, is currently piecing together a timeline of his whereabouts along with cold cases around the same time and location. She said, “Even though he is already in prison, the FBI believes it is important to seek justice for each victim—to close every case possible.”
As the crimes stretch across many states, the task has took years of hard work as in many cases they don’t have a body. The task has also been difficult as states such as Cleveland had destroyed missing person reports made prior to 1990. Little said he found the state of Cleveland to be the easiest to get away with murder, confessing, “They didn’t give a f— if you killin’ over there.”
Little managed to evade capture for so long as he selected only vulnerable victims he believed no one was accounting for—female sex workers and drug addicts. Many victims were unidentified and their deaths were not investigated by police.
He would pick up his selected victim before driving them to a secluded area where they were beaten and strangled. Their bodies dumped in alleyways and behind dumpsters—wherever he chose to discard them. He chillingly explained in a confessional video interview, “They was broke and homeless and they walked right into my spider web.”
In a separate interview with journalist Jillian Lauren for the New York Times, he told her, “I never killed no senators or governors or fancy New York journalists. Nothing like that. I killed you, it’d be all over the news the next day. I stayed in the ghettos.”
Born June 7th, 1940, in Reynolds, Georgia, Little said his mother was a “lady of the night” and investigators believe he was born in jail during one of his teenage mother’s arrests. He claimed she abandoned him on the side of a dirt road and was instead raised by his grandmother in Lorain, Ohio. In high school, he had problems with discipline and was held in an institution for juvenile offenders after breaking and entering into properties.
He eventually dropped out of school and took up amateur boxing with dreams of becoming like his hero Sugar Ray Robinson. As a light-heavyweight prize fighter, he was known for his speed and earned the nicknames “Mad Daddy” and “Mad Machine”. Later in life he used these skills to get away with murder. When it came to his female victims, he would knock them out cold with one punch before strangling them—this often meant there was no “obvious signs” that a murder had taken place. The cause of death was often wrongly listed as overdoses or accidental.
Little had a history of violence dating back to 1956. The long list of criminal charges included shoplifting, fraud, breaking and entering, assault and false imprisonment. In 1984, he was arrested in San Diego for kidnapping, beating and strangling 22-year-old Laurie Barros—she was one of the lucky few survivors. A month later, a police officer found him in his car with an unconscious woman who had also been beaten and strangled. He served just two and a half years for both attempted murder charges and moved to Los Angeles following his release.
In September 2012, he was arrested on a narcotics charge whilst at a homeless shelter in Kentucky and then extradited to California. When police collected his DNA, they matched him with three unsolved murders between 1987 and 1989. He claimed he was innocent but witnesses who had barely survived his attacks began to come forward to testify. In 2014, he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole—that was just the beginning of what was about to unfold.
The FBI is well-trained in extracting a confession from cold-blooded killers but despite more than 700 hours spent interviewing Little, they never got him to admit to his crimes. Then along came Ranger James Holland who did the impossible and managed to coax Little into spilling all his secrets. For 48 straight days, the two men sat in a room together as Little confessed to 65 of his murders whilst they shared pizzas together. Due to these confessions, judges and prosecutors across multiple states have been able to close long-standing cold cases.
Holland said Little was a calculated killer, he revealed, “He was so good at what he did. You know, ‘How did you get away with it, Sammy?’ Did the crime, left town. The first thing I picked up on is how wicked smart he was.” Adding, “Nothing he’s ever said has been proven to be wrong or false. We’ve been able to prove up almost everything he said.”
There is no denying Little’s hatred for women is what motivated him to commit such horrendous and brutal crimes. He also mostly targeted black women which is common for serial killers to choose victims of similar race.
In one confessional, he recalled how he met a “good-looking” transgender teenager at a bar in Miami, Florida. Then he decided to kill her.
He said, “I got out of the car, pulled her out and dragged her into the growth back there. And pulled her deeper into… there’s a path, a little path, that went in somewhere, I don’t know where it led to, but it was running deeper into the undergrowth. And we ran into some water running, but before we got to the water the earth was mushy. I turned her loose and she fell into it face down.”
Little has a photographic memory that allows him to recall the faces and body types of his victims. He also remembers specific details of the location of his crimes such as how many arches were on a building or how far down a road he would drive until he reached the exact spot to dump the body. Investigators have found that the serial killer is enjoying the attention he receives from recounting all these details after decades of his crimes going undetected.
30 sketches of victims hand-drawn by Little himself have been compiled as part of a public database released by the FBI in the hopes that they will be able to close even more cold cases. FBI spokesperson Shayne Buchwald said, “We are hoping that someone—family member, former neighbor, friend—might recognize the victim and provide that crucial clue in helping authorities make an identification. We want to give these women their names back and their families some long-awaited answers. It’s the least we can do.”
The strategy has been successful as two women who appeared in the released portraits were identified.
In November 1981, sex worker Lelia Johnson was in her early 20s and living in Pascagoula, Mississippi, when she fought Little during an attack. She testified, “He got his big hands around my neck, but I’m a fighter and I was scratching him in the eyeballs, kicking and fighting, fighting, fighting. He was evil. You could tell he hated women and he liked having control.” She was forced to flee into oncoming traffic whilst was topless in order to narrowly escape with her life.
Johnson was one of the very few survivors who were able to testify against Little during his murder trial. She said the attack was never reported “because I didn’t think anybody would care or believe me.” Another sex worker from Pascagoula, who remained anonymous, also testified that she was attacked in 1980. She hauntingly recalled, “He put me in a bathtub and was submerging my head in and out of water.” Adding, “He beat me severely, and I guess the only reason he didn’t kill me is because a friend of mine came and knocked on my door.”
Journalist Jillian Lauren became one of the very few members of the press to interview the most prolific serial killer in history. He told her, “You’re my angel come to visit me from Heaven. God knew I was lonely and he sent me you. You want a story? Oooooeeeee, do I have stories.” Little claimed that he was still able to recall 88 of the murders with vivid detail and that he now referred to the victims as his “babies”. He said, “I live in my mind now. With my babies. In my drawings. The only things I was ever good at was drawing and fighting.”
Little also said that the victims he selected were half-dead in the eyes anyway and that he was just finishing the job believing himself to be a twisted angel of mercy. “(Killing) felt like heaven. Felt like being in bed with Marilyn Monroe,” he recalled of his sinister crimes.
Behind bars, Little is wheelchair-bound, suffering from diabetes and a serious heart condition. As he approaches the end of his own life, more than seven hours of taped police confessions prove he has no remorse for his crimes.
In one interview, he confesses, “I try to trace back to when I became attracted to a woman’s throat. A lot of these women have a death wish. Yeah they want to die. I love all of them.” In another disturbing confession, he said, “I can’t pick a favourite when they die, they’re all favorites. They all belong to you. I’ll see you in hell.” He also added, “I didn’t waste no time digging bodies. I got so crazy I wanted more. That’s a curse that I have got.”
Little will remain behind bars for the remainder of his years and go down in history as the worst serial killer in the U.S whose crimes stole the lives of 93 innocent victims.
About The Author: Cheish Merryweather is a true crime fan and an oddities fanatic. Can either be found at house parties telling everyone Charles Manson was only 5ft 2″ or at home reading true crime magazines.