FBI names in­mate as the dead­li­est se­rial killer in U.S. his­tory

Lit­tle claims he killed more than 90, in­clud­ing a wo­man in Chat­tanooga

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY TA­MARA LUSH AND ADRIAN SAINZ

ST. PETERS­BURG, Fla. — An in­mate who claims to have killed more than 90 women across the coun­try — in­clud­ing one found in Dade County, Ge­or­gia — is now con­sid­ered to be the dead­li­est se­rial killer in U.S. his­tory, the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion said.

Samuel Lit­tle, who has been be­hind bars since 2012, told in­ves­ti­ga­tors last year that he was re­spon­si­ble for about 90 killings na­tion­wide be­tween 1970 and 2005. In a news re­lease on Sun­day, the FBI an­nounced that fed­eral crime an­a­lysts believe all of his con­fes­sions are cred­i­ble, and of­fi­cials have been able to ver­ify 50 con­fes­sions so far.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors also pro­vided new in­for­ma­tion and de­tails about five cases in Florida, Arkansas, Ken­tucky, Ne­vada and Louisiana.

The 79-year-old Lit­tle is serv­ing mul­ti­ple life sen­tences in Cal­i­for­nia. He says he stran­gled his 93 vic­tims, nearly all of them women.

Some of his vic­tims were on the mar­gins of so­ci­ety. Many of the deaths were orig­i­nally deemed over­doses or at­trib­uted to ac­ci­den­tal or un­de­ter­mined causes. Some bod­ies were never found.

In 2018, Lit­tle told in­ves­ti­ga­tors one of his vic­tims was from the Chat­tanooga area.

He said he walked into a club on what was then Ninth Street — now known as M.L. King Boule­vard — in down­town Chat­tanooga one night al­most 40 years ago, met a wo­man and agreed to give her a ride home. About an hour later, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­view with in­ves­ti­ga­tors, Lit­tle dumped her body off In­ter­state 24 in North Ge­or­gia.

In May, in­ves­ti­ga­tors with the Ge­or­gia Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion and the Hamil­ton County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice asked for the pub­lic’s help iden­ti­fy­ing the wo­man.

They ex­humed her re­mains from a pau­per’s grave in Dade County, and a Ge­or­gia Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion foren­sic artist cre­ated a fa­cial re­con­struc­tion and sketch of what they believe the wo­man looked like.

Lit­tle couldn’t give au­thor­i­ties many de­tails other than to say she was a black wo­man be­tween 25 and 30 years old.

The FBI pro­vided 30 draw­ings of some of his vic­tims — color por­traits that were drawn by Lit­tle him­self in prison. They are haunt­ing por­traits, mostly of black women.

The agency also pro­vided videos taken dur­ing prison in­ter­views with Lit­tle. He de­scribed how he spoke about a wo­man he stran­gled in 1993 — and how he rolled her down a slope on a deso­late road.

“I heard a sec­ondary road noise and that meant she was still rolling,” he said.

In an­other video, he de­scribed a vic­tim in New Or­leans. “She was pretty. Light col­ored, hon­ey­brown skin,” he said with a small smile. “She was tall for a wo­man. Beau­ti­ful shape. And, uh, friendly.”

It was 1982, and they met in a club. She left with him in his Lin­coln, and they parked by a bayou.

“That’s the only one that I ever killed by drown­ing,” he said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors around the coun­try are still try­ing to piece to­gether Lit­tle’s con­fes­sions with uniden­ti­fied re­mains and un­solved cases from decades past. In Au­gust, he pleaded guilty to killing four women in Ohio. He was con­victed in Cal­i­for­nia of three slay­ings in 2013 and pleaded guilty to an­other killing last year in Texas.

Lit­tle, who of­ten went by the name Samuel Mc­Dow­ell, grew up with his grand­mother in Lo­rain, Ohio. He was de­scribed by in­ves­ti­ga­tors as a tran­sient and for­mer boxer who trav­eled the coun­try prey­ing on drug ad­dicts, trou­bled women and oth­ers.

Au­thor­i­ties in Knox County, Ten­nessee, said Mon­day that a wo­man named Martha Cun­ning­ham was likely a vic­tim of Lit­tle’s.

The Knoxville News Sen­tinel re­ported in De­cem­ber that a cold case in­ves­ti­ga­tor with the Knox County Sher­iff’s Of­fice had iden­ti­fied the vic­tim who Lit­tle called “Martha.” The Knoxville mother’s body was found in a wooded area in east­ern Knox County in 1975.

Cun­ning­ham’s body was found by a pair of hunters on the af­ter­noon of Jan. 18, 1975. She was bruised and nude from the waist down; her panty­hose and gir­dle bunched around her knees. Her purse and some of her jew­elry were miss­ing. Her body ap­peared to have been dragged into the woods and dumped be­hind a pine tree, au­thor­i­ties said at the time.

De­spite that ev­i­dence, de­tec­tives at the time at­trib­uted Cun­ning­ham’s death to nat­u­ral causes within a day of the dis­cov­ery. The med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s in­ves­tiga­tive re­port lists the prob­a­ble cause of death as “un­known.”

Cun­ning­ham was a tal­ented singer and pi­anist who grew up per­form­ing with her par­ents and her six younger sib­lings in a gospel group known as the Happy Home Ju­bilee Singers.

Law en­force­ment in Ten­nessee had Lit­tle in cus­tody 19 years af­ter Cun­ning­ham’s body was found.

Lit­tle was con­victed of mis­de­meanor lar­ceny in 1994 in Nashville, and he was sen­tenced to 90 days in jail, ac­cord­ing to Ten­nessee Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion crim­i­nal records ob­tained Mon­day by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Ted Bundy con­fessed to 30 homi­cides from about 1974-1978. John Wayne Gacy killed at least 33 boys and young men in the 1970s.

Ar­guably one of the dead­li­est killers glob­ally was an English gen­eral prac­ti­tioner named Harold Ship­man, who an in­ves­tiga­tive panel de­ter­mined was re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of 250 peo­ple. He was con­victed in 2000 in the deaths of 15.


Samuel Lit­tle leaves the Ec­tor County Court­house af­ter a hear­ing in Odessa, Texas. The FBI said Lit­tle, who claims to have killed more than 90 women, is the most pro­lific se­rial killer in U.S. his­tory.


Joe Mont­gomery, se­cond from right, as­sis­tant spe­cial agent in charge of the Ge­or­gia Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, dis­cusses the search for the iden­tity of one of Samuel Lit­tle’s vic­tims on March 19. Also pic­tured, from left, are Mike Mathis, su­per­vi­sor of the cold case unit for the Hamil­ton County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice; Hamil­ton County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Neal Pinkston; and GBI Spe­cial Agent Steve Rogers Jr. In the fore­ground is a fa­cial re­con­struc­tion of the vic­tim.

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