A few years ago, Samuel Little was rotting away in a California prison on the edge of the desert, serving a life sentence for three murders. Now, due to the diligence of a Texas Ranger, Little has confessed in photographic detail to 93 murders—50 of which the FBI has already confirmed, making him the most prolific serial killer in American history.
Little’s record-setting murder spree began in 1970, ended in 2005, and covered 19 states. He mostly struck poor and disadvantaged women, many of whom were black, drug-addicted, and working as prostitutes. Because his victims lived on society’s fringes, many victims were never found; if they were, their deaths were chalked up to overdoses or any other sort of misadventure that tends to strike the marginalized.
A Record 93 Victims
Little says he strangled all of his victims but one—whom he drowned. Among his victims:
• A black transgender female in Miami named “Mary Ann” or “Marianne” who was in her late teens. Little says they met at a bar in 1971 or 1972 before he drove her down a remote highway, strangled her to death, and dumped her body in muddy water.
• A Tennessee mother and gospel singer named Martha Cunningham whom he left bruised, naked from the waist down, and dead in a wooded area near Knoxville in 1975.
• The 1978 strangulation of Julia Crutchfield in Mississippi. Little says he threw her body off a cliff.
• A “honey-colored” black woman who lived with her mother that Little met in New Orleans in 1982. They met at a birthday party before Little took her into his confidence and strangled her to death.
• A woman with short blonde hair, blue eyes, and, according to Little, a “hippie appearance” who in 1981 asked Little for a ride to Miami to visit her mother. While in Kentucky, he strangled her in the backseat of his car and dumped her body on a hilltop.
• A woman in Little Rock, AR whom he met at some point between 1992 and 1994. Little told investigators he drove her down a dirt road, strangled her to death, and tossed her body in an old cornfield.
• The killings of three women in Los Angeles, two of whom he strangled in 1987 and the other in 1987. These are the only three murders of which Little has been formally convicted. It is thought that one reason he confessed to murders in Texas is that he hates the California prison system and seeks to be relocated.
Killing For Decades While Evading Justice
Samuel Little was born in Georgia in 1940. He claims his mother was a prostitute.
In 1956, after a conviction for breaking and entering, he was sent to an institution for juvenile offenders.
In his late 20s, he moved back in with his mother in Florida. But he grew shiftless and moved from state to state, committing crimes that led to arrests in eight states for “driving under the influence, fraud, shoplifting, solicitation, armed robbery, aggravated assault, and rape. During his stints behind bars, Little learned boxing and participated in prison competitions.
In 1970, he began strangling women to death. He says that staring at a teacher’s throat in grade school aroused him tremendously and that ever since, he’s had a morbid sexual fixation with women’s throats.
By 1975, he’d been arrested in eleven states for 26 crimes but was released every time and was murdering with impunity.
In 1982, he was arrested for murder in Mississippi, but a grand jury declined to indict him. He was then transferred to Florida and placed on trial for the 1982 murder of Patricia Mount. However, he was acquitted due to unreliable witness testimony.
Two years later, he was arrested for kidnapping and strangling a California woman who survived. A month later—while apparently free on probation, as ridiculous as it sounds—he was found with an unconscious woman in the back seat of his car at the same location as the attempted murder for which he’d been previously arrested and released.
He served two and a half years in prison for both crimes. Upon his release, Little estimates he killed at least 10 more women in the Los Angeles areas.
Finally, in 2012—more than 30 years after he’d evaded justice for literally dozens of murders—he was arrested at a Kentucky homeless shelter and extradited to LA, where DNA tests convicted him of the three California murders for which he is currently serving a life sentence.
It is estimated that before the final arrest that put him away for life, Samuel Little had been arrested close to 100 times.
The Texas Ranger Who Started Asking Questions
Texas Ranger James Holland started putting the pieces together in several cold cases in his state when he started suspecting that Samuel Little was responsible for far more than three murders.
He worked out a deal with Texas authorities who guaranteed to waive the death penalty if Little agreed to be extradited and confess to the murders.
Over the course of 700 hours of interviews conducted over 48 straight days in 2018, Little dazzled Holland with his photographic memory regarding small details of 93 murders. According to Holland:
With Sammy, there’s indications of visualization, of when he’s thinking about a crime scene. He’ll start stroking his face. And as he’s starting to picture a victim, you’ll see him look out and up. And you can tell he has this revolving carousel of victims, and it’s just spinning, and he’s waiting for it to stop at the one that he wants to talk about.
Little’s photographic memory extended into an ability to draw detailed color sketches of 26 of his victims, a few of which led to positive identifications by family members:
Samuel Little In His Own Words
The following quotes were all compiled from Little’s extensive 2018 interviews with Texas Ranger James Holland.
I got away with numerous murders of women in my life over the span of 50 years…
I lost track. I had to count by states.
God, I got so crazy, I wanted more.
They was broke and homeless and they walked right into my spider web.
I try to trace back to when I became attracted to a woman’s throat.
I don’t think there was another person that did what I liked to do. I think I’m the only one in the world. That’s not an honor. That’s a curse.
I put my hand around her neck and that was it. She evidently wanted this to happen, you know? [regarding his first killing]
A little skinny black girl. Real friendly. She was laughing while I was killing her.
She was pretty. Light-colored, honey-brown skin. She was tall for a woman. Beautiful shape. And, uh, friendly. [regarding a murder victim in New Orleans]
I heard a secondary road noise and that meant she was still rolling. [regarding a woman he’d strangled to death and then rolled down a hill in 1993]
She was fighting for her life, and I’m fighting for my pleasure…
So, I got out of the car, pulled her out and dragged her into the growth back there. And pulled her deeper into…there’s a path, a little path, that went in somewhere, I don’t know where it led to, but it was running deeper into the undergrowth. And we ran into some water running, but before we got to the water the earth was mushy. I turned her loose and she fell into it face down. [regarding the murder of an 18 or 19-year-old transgender woman near Miami, 1971-1972]
James Holland: Where did you kill the most?
Samuel Little: Oh that’s easy, Florida and California.
James Holland: What city did you kill the most in?
Samuel Little: Miami and Los Angeles.
James Holland: And how many did you kill in Los Angeles?
Samuel Little: Los Angeles, approximately 20.
I never dreamt I’d be like this.
All I know is I lost control. And I always was very cautious to keep from getting busted. I didn’t pick on motherfuckers that would be missed….There weren’t no women nurses and teachers. That’s the reason I didn’t get busted a long time ago.
Probably be numerous people who are—been convicted and sent to penitentiary on my behalf. I say, ‘If I can help get somebody out of jail, you know, God might smile a little bit more on me.’
When they die, they’re all your favorites. They all belong to you.
I’ll see you in hell.
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