Samuel Little is America’s most prolific serial killer – though few people have any idea who he is, let alone the crimes he’s committed. The 79-year-old convict was already serving three life sentences when he confessed to killing 93 people across more than a dozen states between 1970 and 2005.
Chillingly, authorities were able to confirm over 60 of those killings thanks, in part, to the portraits of the victims that Little drew himself, from memory.
Dozens of unsolved “Jane Does” remain, but these drawings have so far helped to reopen and eventually close dozens of cold cases. By the time it’s all over, who knows what Samuel Little’s body count will look like.
Little was hoping to move prisons when he was approached by the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) as he seemed to have information about a killing in Odessa. They approached Samuel with an offer: Give us information and we’ll move you to a new prison. He was only too willing to talk.
Little helped authorities for months and, in the end, admitted to killing around 90 people in territories ranging from California beaches to the deserts of New Mexico and the midwest down to Florida’s southern tip and back up to Washington D.C. — all between 1970 and 2005.
More than 60 of the confessions have, thankfully, been verified, providing so many families with some closure, even if not peace of mind, but many of Little’s confessions are still to be verified.
Even if no other confessions are ever confirmed, Little has now become the deadliest known serial killer in U.S. history.
Little’s photographic memory has allowed him to remember everything about his crimes, in detail, including the car he was driving, where he was, and who he picked up.
Little’s memory is allegedly so reliable, in fact, that the drawings he made of his victims are actually practical pieces of evidence that can be used to close decades-old unsolved murders.
He doesn’t recall the exact dates of certain incidents, because that’s not what’s important to him, but the faces of the women he killed are burned into his memory because those are the details that keep him going as he rots away in prison.
Samuel Little was born in Georgia in 1940, but moved with his family to Ohio, where he grew up in relative poverty and began his life of crime with petty school offences.
He soon progressed to petty crime and was eventually arrested for breaking and entering in Nebraska in 1956.
Like so many career criminals, his crimes only ever grew more serious as he travelled across around a dozen U.S. states and racked up arrests for crimes ranging from shoplifting and fraud to assault and sexual assault. It wouldn’t be long before murder would top that list.
As a full-on killer, he later claimed to have been active right back to the early 1970s, but his first arrest for it came in Mississippi, in 1982 in Mississippi. In this instance, there wasn’t enough evidence to indict but, in the meantime, he was arrested for another one in Florida. He was acquitted soon after.
He then moved his hunting ground to California and this was the beginning of his prime years as a stone cold killer.
Victims tended to be women who would be classed as vulnerable within society, either sex workers or addicts.
Little wasn’t particular about where he dumped his victims – alleys, dumpsters, the nearest garage – after first knocking them out, beating, and strangling them.
Probably one of the most shocking aspects of Little’s reign of terror was just how long it took for him to be caught.
To give an idea of the sheer scope of time he continued to kill – Richard Nixon had just finished his first year in office when Little began to kill, while Barack Obama was entering his second term when he was finally caught.
Though often suspected, authorities could never pin anything on him. With “no stab marks or bullet wounds, many of these deaths were not classified as homicides but attributed to overdoses, accidents, or natural causes,” the FBI said in its initial report in November 2018.
It was not until September 2012 when a narcotics-related warrant for Little’s arrest caught the attention of an officer which led him to Little in a homeless shelter in Kentucky, and his streak was finally brought to an end.
Having been extradited to L.A., DNA samples taken were finally matched to the victims in three unsolved murders from 1987 to 1989.
Naturally, he pleaded not guilty to all three charges despite witness testimonies from various women who narrowly escaped his grasp. Thankfully, though, he was convicted in 2014, receiving three consecutive life sentences.
The LAPD shared Little’s DNA with the FBI to run a trace through ViCAP, which brought about a match to the killing of Denise Christie Brothers in Odessa, Texas, found strangled in an empty parking lot in January 1994 a few blocks from a motel.
Samuel Little provided authorities with such detailed, minute descriptions that only Brothers’ real killer would’ve known, and was indicted by a grand jury on July 16, 2018.
He was then sent to Texas to face the new charges, for which he pleaded guilty this time and received a further life sentence.
In December 2018, a match was found between Little and the murder of 23-year-old Linda Sue Boards, found in a field on May 15, 1981, and last seen alive four days earlier on her way to a nightclub in Bowling Green.
A Warren County grand jury in Kentucky was soon able to indict Little of this crime too.
Samuel Little was also connected to the death of a Knoxville woman, named Martha Cunningham, previously thought to have died of natural causes.
Cunningham’s death was a mystery to her family for nearly 44 years, since being found by two hunters on Jan. 18, 1975 – bruised and dumped in the woods.
In October 2019, the FBI confirmed Samuel Little to be the deadliest known killer in U.S. history.
With 60 victims to his name and some 40 other cases still pending, Little’s body count has surpassed that of far more famous killers whose names have been etched into the American consciousness.
Video has been released of many of Little’s disturbing confessions as well as the drawings of his victims in hope that those with any knowledge of these women might come forward. With any luck, Samuel Little will help give closure to the so many families he devastated with his vicious crimes all those decades ago.