In­mate is now most pro­lific se­rial killer

As 50 of 93 claimed mur­ders check out, FBI doesn’t doubt him

The Dallas Morning News - - FRONT PAGE - By TA­MARA LUSH and TAMI AB­DOL­LAH

Cal­i­for­nia in­mate Samuel Lit­tle is con­sid­ered by the FBI to be the most pro­lific se­rial killer in U.S. history. So far, 50 of 93 claimed mur­ders have been con­firmed.

Samuel Lit­tle’s de­prav­ity is matched only by his prodi­gious me­mory.

Lit­tle, a Cal­i­for­nia in­mate con­sid­ered by the FBI to be the most pro­lific se­rial killer in U.S. history, has con­fessed to 93 slay­ings com­mit­ted across the coun­try be­tween 1970 and 2005, re­count­ing the crimes with as­ton­ish­ing, near­pho­to­graphic de­tail. He even drew color por­traits of dozens of the women he stran­gled.

His case, fea­tured Sun­day on 60 Min­utes, has of­fered a fright­en­ing look in­side the mind of a killer and the wrong­headed as­sump­tions on the part of law en­force­ment that en­abled him to es­cape justice for so long.

Lit­tle, who is 79 and has been be­hind bars since 2012 for sev­eral killings, preyed on pros­ti­tutes, drug ad­dicts and other women on the mar­gins, many of them black like him, and many of the deaths were orig­i­nally deemed over­doses, ac­ci­dents or of un­de­ter­mined causes. Some bod­ies were never found.

In a case out of Ten­nessee, Martha Cun­ning­ham’s body was found bruised and nude from the waist down in the woods in 1975, her panty­hose and gir­dle bunched around her knees. Detectives ini­tially at­trib­uted her death to nat­u­ral causes; the cause was later clas­si­fied as “un­known.”

But in 48 straight days of in­ter­views with Texas Ranger James Hol­land, who kept the killer sup­plied with pizza and Dr Pep­per, Lit­tle of­fered a wealth of de­tails that were used to cor­rob­o­rate his ac­counts one by one.

One woman wore den­tures, for ex­am­ple. An­other was killed near a set of arches in Miami. There was a 5foot­6 woman with brown skin in Florida in the mid­1980s. In 1984 in Ken­tucky, there was a 25­yearold out­side a strip club with short blond hair, blue eyes and a “hip­pie” look.

And in a case from Florida in the 1970s, Lit­tle re­mem­bered the flow­ered sun­dress and neck­lace the vic­tim wore, and how he played with it be­fore he choked her to death.

Fort My­ers, Fla., homi­cide de­tec­tive Mali Lang­ton, who was among a num­ber of in­ves­ti­ga­tors from other ju­ris­dic­tions who talked to Lit­tle in prison as well, said she was as­ton­ished by his me­mory.

“I couldn’t tell you who I bought a burger from yes­ter­day,” she said.

Notic­ing that Lit­tle liked to draw, Hol­land gave him art sup­plies be­hind bars. Lit­tle went on to pro­duce more than 30 por­traits of his vic­tims that proved re­mark­ably help­ful.

Se­rial killers are often world­class liars and ma­nip­u­la­tors who crave no­to­ri­ety and ex­ag­ger­ate or con­fess to crimes they didn’t com­mit, crim­i­nal justice ex­perts say. But Lit­tle stands apart.

Au­thor­i­ties in sev­eral states have ver­i­fied 50 of his con­fes­sions so far and are scram­bling to link dozens more cold cases to his rec­ol­lec­tions.

“I would be sus­pi­cious of be­liev­ing him, ex­cept it was ac­tu­ally cor­rob­o­rated,” said Ma­rina Sorochin­ski, a pro­fes­sor of crim­i­nal justice at Mercy Col­lege in New York.

As Hol­land said on 60 Min­utes: “Noth­ing he’s ever said has been proven to be wrong or false.”

All told, Lit­tle is be­lieved re­spon­si­ble for more killings than Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Jef­frey Dah­mer com­bined.

Lit­tle’s modus operandi made it hard to link him to vic­tims. The for­mer boxer often de­liv­ered a knock­out punch to women, au­thor­i­ties said, then stran­gled them while mas­tur­bat­ing. He would dump their bod­ies and soon leave town.

He claimed to have killed in 19 states. The big­gest con­cen­tra­tions of killings were in Florida and Cal­i­for­nia, he said, with about 20 in Los An­ge­les alone.

He was re­peat­edly ar­rested for var­i­ous of­fenses over the decades, in­clud­ing mur­der and as­sault, and served time for some things, but es­caped pros­e­cu­tion for his most se­ri­ous crimes. He was fi­nally caught when a Ken­tucky ar­rest in 2012 on drug charges led au­thor­i­ties to link his DNA to three slay­ings in Cal­i­for­nia.

“It makes sense that he could have got­ten away with so many” for so long, Sorochin­ski said.


Samuel Lit­tle’s por­traits of some of his vic­tims, com­bined with his de­tailed rec­ol­lec­tions of the women and his crimes, have helped law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties ver­ify 50 of the 93 mur­ders that he says he com­mit­ted, and the work con­tin­ues.


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