Columns

Is This Man America's Most Prolific Serial Killer?

Samuel Little leaves the Ector County Courthouse after attending a pre-trial hearing Nov. 26, 2018, in Odessa, Texas. (Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP)

WASHINGTON — The FBI said today that a 78-year-old man currently imprisoned in Texas has confessed to committing 90 murders across the country from 1970 to 2005.

FBI analysts are working with federal, state and local agencies — including the Texas Rangers — to try to match Samuel Little’s confessions to cold cases.

If his confessions pan out, Little would be among the most prolific serial killers in American history.

Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, was convicted of 49 murders but confessed to 71, and is suspected of committing more than 90.

Some suspect that Ted Bundy’s death toll might exceed 100; he confessed to killing three dozen women and was executed in 1989.

Little, originally from Ohio, has a long criminal history including drug charges, assault, shoplifting, breaking and entering, and solicitation. In the early 1980s, he escaped indictment in Mississippi and conviction in Florida on charges of killing women. He was arrested at a Kentucky homeless shelter on a drug charge in 2012 and his DNA was matched to three unsolved murders — all women beaten and strangled to death — in Los Angeles from 1987-89. The former competitive boxer was convicted in 2014 and sent to prison for life.

Based on the positive match to the L.A. murders, the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program “found a case out of Odessa, Texas, that sounded very much like him, and we could place him passing through the area around the same time,” said ViCAP crime analyst Christina Palazzolo.

This past spring, Little, eager for a prison transfer, was happy to talk with investigators. Ticking off victims by city and state, he said he had killed 90 women. Though he wasn’t good at remembering dates, he offered other details such as the car he was driving at the time and even sketched drawings of his victims.

So far, the FBI has confirmed 34 cases tied to Little; he was extradited to Texas to face charges in the Odessa murder. Many cases are pending confirmation, while other claims have been uncorroborated, the FBI said. Challenges for investigators, including Little’s trouble with dates, include his choice of victims — often prostitutes and drug addicts — and his frequent moves. Little is also in poor health.

“A Jane Doe who turned up dead in an alley in New Orleans may look like an isolated event,” said ViCAP supervisory crime analyst Kevin Fitzsimmons. “But when entered into the ViCAP database and examined with other mysterious deaths or missing persons, patterns emerge.”