Convicted US murderer Samuel Little confesses to killing 90 women
Investigators looking across 36 cities and 16 states at Little’s alleged crimes
Samuel Little, who was convicted on charges that he murdered three women in Los Angeles in the 1980s, listens to opening statements as his trial begins on August 18, 2014 Photograph: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times/Getty
A 78-year-old convicted murderer serving a life sentence in a Texas prison has confessed to killing 90 women over nearly four decades – which, if his confessions are confirmed, could make him one of the worst serial killers in American history.
Samuel Little, who is serving a life term without the possibility of parole after being found guilty in 2014 of three murders in California, confessed to killings in multiple states during an interview with law enforcement officials in May.
Police have linked Mr Little, described by the FBI as having a “dark, violent streak”, to 34 murders and are working to corroborate many others.
The FBI, which this week released a report into Mr Little’s criminal past, said in a statement: “Law enforcement has only recently begun unravelling the true extent of his crimes.”
Mr Little’s “nomadic lifestyle” and violent history have sent investigators looking across 36 cities and 16 states at his alleged crimes. Little was convicted four years ago over the deaths years earlier of the three women in Los Angeles area.
The FBI’s Kevin Fitzsimmons said: “The biggest lesson in this case is the power of information sharing. These connections all started in our database of violent crime.”
Mr Little’s known crimes began in 1956, as he crisscrossed the country shoplifting, soliciting prostitutes, committing fraud and burglary.
The earliest murders released to the public began in the 1970s, before DNA matching was widely available, and continued until 2005. He escaped prosecution and conviction more than once, even as several women escaped him.
Christina Palazzolo, a crime analyst with the FBI, said that when Mr Little did have run-ins with police, they often simply shooed him out of town. The FBI said Mr Little preyed on women who were sex workers or addicted to drugs, and whose “bodies sometimes went unidentified and their deaths uninvestigated”.
In the early 1980s, Little was charged with killing more than one woman in Mississippi and Florida. However, he escaped indictment in Mississippi, and was not convicted in Florida. He spent time in jail for assaulting a woman in Missouri and for holding a woman against her will in California.
Mr Little was finally arrested in 2012 in a Kentucky homeless shelter, wanted on drug charges in California. He was sent to Los Angeles, where police tested his DNA. He was connected to three unsolved murders between 1987 and 1989 and convicted of those crimes in 2014.
Building a profile
Then Los Angeles police contacted the FBI, asking agents to build a profile on the killer. The FBI found several possible cases involving Mr Little, the strongest of which was in Odessa, Texas.
Mr Little, Mr Palazzolo said, “went through city and state and gave Ranger Holland the number of people he killed in each place. Jackson, Mississippi – one; Cincinnati, Ohio – one; Phoenix, Arizona – three; Las Vegas, Nevada – one”.
The remainder of Mr Little’s confessions remain uncorroborated, and many of the victims remain unidentified. Investigators said Mr Little remembers his victims well, but not when he killed them, making cases difficult to confirm. Mr Little is in poor health, and the FBI said it is working with him to identify victims before his almost certain death in prison.
Among Mr Little’s victims was Audrey Nelson, an upstate New York “farm girl”, as her brother described her. Ms Nelson moved to Los Angeles from Hebron, New York in 1980 because she thought the climate would be better for her asthma.
It took 23 years for the Los Angeles police to connect her death to Mr Little. She was working as a cosmetologist and had a small daughter when she was killed, according to her hometown newspaper. – Guardian