In 2014, Samuel Little, 74, was convicted of the murders of three women in Los Angeles. DNA had linked him to cold cases committed between 1987 to 1989. He received three life sentences. Authorities suspected he had probably committed other murders, however he had been reticent about confessing to any, until now.
Samuel Little, based on his confessions, is suspected to be one of the most prolific serial killer in the United States. Recently he drew from memory 16 portraits of women he killed throughout his three decades of murder. Only three of them have been matched to a victim. Samuel Little didn't even know their names, and 13 remain unidentified.
The FBI has released the drawings hoping to give names to these victims and close cold cases from around the country. Of the 93 women Little has confessed to killing police have confirmed 36 of them. Little claims that he killed 20 people in Los Angeles alone.
Identifying these victims is complicated not only because of Little's faulty recall of dates, but that most of them lived on the margin of society. They were prostitutes, drug addicts and transgendered individuals, that did not come up on the radar when they disappeared.
Little strangled his victims and would dump them in wooded areas. Without obvious injuries to cause death like a gunshot or knife wound, their death was blamed on overdoses.
The FBI urged anyone with information about the victims to call (800) 634-4097.
Original Story About the Confessions of Samuel Little
Denise Brothers was strangled, and her body was dumped on the outskirts of Odessa in 1994. Leads dried up, and it became a cold case until the summer of 2018, when Little's DNA was connected to the crime.
He was indicted and transferred to Texas. James Holland, a Texas Ranger struck up a rapport with Little. Whether it was due to his age, or the fact that he knew he would spend the rest of his life in prison Little told him more than what authorities hoped for or even suspected. He told Holland that he had committed 90 murders throughout the United States between 1970 and 2013.
If these figures are accurate it would make him one of the most prolific serial killers this country has ever apprehended. He would outstrip Gary Ridgeway, The Green River Killer. Little also used the alias of Samuel McDowell.
Unlike other murderers that claim killings that are not their own, since his confession he has been linked to 30 different unsolved crimes. Law enforcement departments from across the country have sent officials to his jail cell hoping they can close some of their cold cases.
Once standing at 6-foot-3, Little who had been raised by his grandmother, was committing crimes since he was 16 years old. Presently bound to a wheelchair, in his youth he lead a vagabond life leaving a trail of carnage and death in his wake.
Everytime he would be set free, he would claim more victims. Between 1957 to 1975 he had been arrested 26 times in 11 states. The charges ranged from rape, aggravated assault to shoplifting and fraud.
Little targeted prostitutes and drug addicts. He would punch them into unconsciousness, and then strangle them while he masturbated.
No doubt due to the risky lifestyle of his victims, it wasn't until 1976 that he came to the attention of authorities in St. Louis. Pamela Smith, a drug addict, naked below the waist started to bang the door of a random house. Her hands were bound behind her back with an electrical cord. She told police that a man fitting Little's description had beat and raped her before she was able to escape.
Police arrested Little as he was found in a car matching the description given by Smith. Her clothes were inside the vehicle. He told police that he had only beat her. He was released in December 1976 after only serving three months.
Little was a loner who lead a nomadic lifestyle, with no fixed address. Throughout the years after his arrest in St. Louis he would run into trouble for the same pattern of violent attacks on women. He managed to always squeeze free.
Melinda LaPree's body was discovered in a cemetery in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She was last seen with Little. When the police investigated, two other prostitutes told them that Little had attacked them. He was arrested for the murder in 1982, however a grand jury failed to indict him on the charges and he was set free. He has recently admitted to her murder
In 1984 he was acquitted on another murder charge. This stemmed from the killing of Patricia Mount in Forest Grove, Florida. Police have now tied him to the 1982 murder of Rosie Hill. Her strangled body was found in woods near a hog pen in Ocala.
According to the Ocala Star Reporter, recently an investigator from Marion County Sheriff’s Office interviewed Little about Rosie Hill's murder. He confessed only after an agreement not to be prosecuted for it. Little was asked as to why he killed the woman, he “advised that God put him on this earth to do what he was doing.”
Investigators cautioned, that this killer's newfound openness should not be read as remorse.
Once free he headed to the other side of the country, and in October 1984 he was charged with attacking a San Diego woman. He ended up pleading guilty to assault and false imprisonment after the jury deadlocked on the charge of attempted murder. A scant two and half years later he was once again free to kill more women.
The bodies piled up quickly. Carol Alford was found in a Los Angeles alley in 1987, Audrey Nelson was found in a trash can in 1989. The same year Guadalupe Apodaca's remains turned up in an abandoned building. It wasn't until April 2012 that DNA linked Little to all three murders.
In 2014 he went to trial and was convicted. He was sentenced to three life terms, insuring he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
Two unsolved murders in Macon, Georgia have been attributed to him. A Jane Doe found in 1977, and the strangling murder of Fredonia Smith in 1982.
He has confessed to the killing of Julia Critchfield, who was strangled and thrown off a cliff into a dirt pit on the north end of Saucier, Mississippi.
Authorities in Russell, Alabama have closed a cold case for the 1979 murder of Brenda Alexander, age 23. Investigators told police that Little described that he had picked her up a local disco, and "he wrung his hands together, smiled and said, 'I knew she was mine.'"
Little has confessed to 3 murders in Louisiana. Dorothy Richard, 55, in 1982, Melissa Thomas, 29 and Daisy McGuire, 40, both in 1996. The officials of the jurisdictions can close these cold cases, but now face the quandary of whether they should prosecute a 79-year-old who is in poor health and set to spend the rest of his life in prison. Perhaps knowing the identity of their killer is the only solace their family will receive.
Hopefully Little will admit to other crimes, and other families will find solace, but inevitably all involved will ask how he was able to claim so many victims without being stopped.
DECEMBER 2020 UPDATE
Since 2018, Little has provided more than 700 hours of recorded interviews with police.
So far his total stands at 93 murders, most of them from strangulation. He's produced clumsy drawings from his memory to aid police, however many of them are unknown because he never knew their names to begin with.
The 80-year-old has been found to be 100 percent credible by the different officials who have interviewed him. More than 50 victims have been identified. Others victims claimed by Little remain unfound.
Little did not have a "type" he favored. Several had mental disabilities, 68 were black, and the rest were White and/or Hispanic. One was transgender.
He told an investigator in Ohio, “I’d go back to the same city sometimes and pluck me another grape. How many grapes do you all got on the vine here?”
Little avoided potential victims that would be missed. He said, “I’m not going to go over there into the White neighborhood and pick out a little teenage girl.”
The majority of the murders would have remained unsolved without his confession. According to him his last victim was killed in 2005 in Mississippi.
December 1970, Samuel Little visited a dive bar off U.S. 27 near Miami. He'd picked up Mary Brosley an anorexic alcoholic who abandoned two children and left broken relationships behind her in Maryland. They parked in a dark area. In his recent spate of confessions he told police, "I had desires. Strong desires to … choke her, I just went out of control, I guess.”
In late January 1971, a hunter accompanied by his 15-year-old son came across a body buried in a shallow grave. She was fully dressed but decomposition did not allow identification. This also impeded examination of her body for physical signs she had been strangled. Her fingerprints were not matched to any missing person.
The Dade County ME incorrectly aged her at 50 to 60 years and that she had been lying in her grave for about two months.
Due to her high blood alcohol level, authorities were not sure what caused her death and deemed it only suspicious, despite the obvious effort to bury her remains.
Brosely's case languished until May 2018 when Miami Dade Police Department got a call from a Texas Ranger who was in the midst of investigating homicides committed by a serial killer who said he murdered women in South Florida. The Miami Dade detectives reviewed their files and found two that fit the profile. They were Brosley and Angela Chapman a mentally disabled sex worker killed in 1976.
It wasn't until 1982 that Brosley's case was changed to homicide, however she was still a Jane Doe. The Miami Dade ME who changed her cause of death, noted she appeared to be “an alcoholic female, with two old injuries, strangled, killed, and buried, A saloon ‘hanger-on’ type might be considered.” The meant she probably didn't know her killer. This is the most difficult type of case to solve.
November 2020, Miami-Dade police attributed two more homicides to Little's list. Dorothy Gibson, 17, a runaway found strangled behind a Miami hotel by the old Greyhound bus station in 1977. The other victim is Karen O’Donoghue whose body has never been found. Authorities wonder if she traveled to Florida with Brosely since they had similar addiction problems and hailed from the same state. Little claimed he had dumped the bodies of two women in the Everglades.
There is suspicion that other unsolved crimes, or possibly bodies that have never been discovered could be attributed to Little.
This profile of throwaway persons, fitted most of Little's victims, and one could say this was the reason why he was able to get away with cold-blooded murder for decades. In part this is accurate, however there is another more troubling and systematic problem.
It's the fact that a man who started his criminal career at the age of 13, and quickly escalated his crimes in violence and seriousness was released back into society. He was arrested dozens of times, and served some prison time but was inevitably set free to murder the most vulnerable victims. This was allowed by police departments, prosecutors, judges and parole boards across the country.
With the recent release of criminals back into society due to the fear of Covid19 contagion as well as the "no-bail" laws passed in different jurisdictions, the question begs to be asked, how many of these are Samuel Littles by another name?
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE
Samuel Little passed away on December 30, 2020. The cause of death will be determined by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office, however there is no indication of foul play. The 80-year-old probably took more murder secrets to the grave than he ever disclosed to authorities.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer