See the bottom of this article for recent updates.
At Samuel Little’s 2014 sentencing, he continued to maintain his innocence. He interrupted grieving family members with shouts of “I didn’t do it!” He told the judge that the prosecutor’s narrative of his life, as a serial killer, had been a “legal lynching.”
Four years into a life sentence without chance of parole, his tune changed. Dramatically.
What has Samuel Little confessed to?
Little, 78 years old as of the time of this article, recently told investigators he’s committed 93 murders—a bloody trail that runs from 1970 to 2013. So far, authorities have established ties on approximately 30 of those confessions.
If all of his killings are confirmed, Little would be the most prolific serial killer in American history. That ignominious title is currently held by Gary Ridgway, aka the Green River Killer, who confessed to killing 48 women in the 1980s.
What caused Samuel Little to confess to these murders?
Little’s current life sentence comes from his conviction on three first-degree murder charges after he was found guilty of murdering three Los Angeles women. Those murders took place between 1987 and 1989, but DNA evidence only connected him to the cases in 2012. (Police found Little living in a shelter in Kentucky and arrested him.)
Little’s conviction on the three murders alone make him a serial killer according to the FBI’s definition of the killing of two of more victims in separate events.
Last summer, more DNA evidence linked Little to a 1994 murder in Odessa, Texas—that of Denise Christie Brothers. After a Texas Ranger, James Holland, visited Little at his California prison to question him on that case, the two developed a rapport, and Little’s cascade of confessions followed.
How did Samuel Little kill his victims?
Little has told investigators that he was a trained boxer, who learned to fight against fellow inmates while entering and exiting prison for a myriad of crimes throughout his life (most notably assault, armed robbery and burglary). In his twenties, also worked for the Dade County (Florida) Department of Sanitation and at a cemetery. Those same strong hands served as his primary weapon in murder: Investigators say he would beat his victims unconscious and then strangle them to death.
He claims to have targeted especially vulnerable women—namely prostitutes and drug addicts—and to have committed his murders across multiple states, an arc of bloodshed stretching from California to South Carolina.
Tim Marcia, a cold-case detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, told The New York Times that Little’s diabolism was astonishing, even when taken within the context of homicide investigations.
“Believe it or not, you only see evil a few times in your career,” Marcia said. “Looking into his eyes, I would say that was pure evil.”
Update 10/7/19: The FBI has confirmed that Little is the “most prolific serial killer in U.S. history,” having confessed to 93 murders. Law enforcement has been able to verify 50 of the confessions, so far, with many more pending confirmation. According to a statement on the FBI.gov website, “FBI crime analysts believe all of his confessions are credible.”
Update 1/1/21: According to an announcement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Samuel Little died on December 30, 2020 at an outside hospital. He was 80 years old. An official cause of death has not yet been determined.
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Did Green River Killer Gary Ridgway’s Sexual Obsession Turn Him Into a Serial Killer?