In 2012, Samuel Little was living in a homeless shelter in Louisville, Ky., when he was arrested on a California warrant for drugs. DNA samples taken while he was in custody linked him to three unsolved homicides.
In 2014, he was sentenced to three life sentences for those murders. Then, about five years ago, the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) began tying Little to other murders across the country. About 18 months ago, a Texas ranger began interviewing Little from behind bars, during which time began a series of grisly confessions to murders from 1970 to 2005.
All told, the FBI says that Little has confessed to a total of 93 murders so far, of which 50 have been confirmed.
The agency said it believes all 93 confessions are credible, and investigators across the country are working to to piece together the information he provided with unidentified remains and unsolved cases from decades past.
“For many years, Samuel Little believed he would not be caught because he thought no one was accounting for his victims,” ViCAP Crime Analyst Christie Palazzolo said in the release. “Even though he is already in prison, the FBI believes it is important to seek justice for each victim—to close every case possible.”
Little’s death toll surpasses that of Ted Bundy, who confessed to 30 homicides from about 1974 to 1978, and that of John Wayne Gacy, who killed at least 33 boys and young men in the 1970s.
Little is about as cold-blooded as they come. He apparently relished the opportunity to describe his murders to investigators.
The FBI provided 30 color portraits, mostly of black women, who Little drew from memory, recalling how he killed each of them. In one of the several on-camera interviews released by the agency, Little spoke about how he strangled one woman to death in 1993 and rolled her body down a slope on a desolate road.
In another video, he described a victim in New Orleans. “She was pretty. Light colored, honey brown skin,” he said with a small smile. “She was tall for a woman. Beautiful shape. And, uh, friendly.”
He said it was 1982, and they met in a club. She left with him in his Lincoln, and they parked by a bayou. He recalled: “That’s the only one that I ever killed by drowning.”
Little was able to get away with his murder spree for 35 years, not because the FBI was “accounting for his victims.” He was able to elude authorities because he preyed on women from the fringes of society — prostitutes and the homeless. Since he himself was out of the mainstream, he and his victims ended up beneath everyone’s radar — including the FBI’s.
We know a lot more about serial killers today than we did when Little began his serial murders. The FBI has collected voluminous data on the psychology of serial murder and there have been academic studies that have helped inform law enforcement about how to connect local murders to national killers.
It’s impossible to estimate how many of these murderers are free and roaming the country looking for their next victim. But some social scientists think that up to 2% of all murders in the U.S. are committed by serial killers — 40% of whom will never be caught.
That’s not a comforting thought for women who may be at risk of becoming a victim.