Samuel Little, America’s most prolific serial killer who went undetected for decades after murdering 93 people

Mohammed Awal October 07, 2019
Samuel Little, who often went by the name Samuel McDowell, leaves the Ector County Courthouse after attending a pre-trial hearing Monday, November 26, 2018 in Odessa, Texas. (Photo: Mark Rogers, Odessa American/AP)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Sunday pronounced Samuel Little the “most prolific serial killer” in U.S. history.

Little confessed to 93 murders he carried out in 19 States from 1970 to 2005—more than were committed by Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer.

The FBI’s announcement comes five years after analysts with the Bureau’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) started linking cases to Little and nearly 18 months after a Texan Ranger began eliciting from him breath ceasing confessions.

The FBI says it found Little’s confessions credible, with law enforcement able to verify 50 confessions.

Many are pending for final confirmation.

“I got away with numerous murders, of women, in my life over the span of 50 years…,” Little, 79, told Texas Ranger James Holland over the course of 700 hours of interviews.

Samuel Little, America’s most prolific serial killer who went undetected for decades after murdering 93 people
Samuel Little speaks with Texas Ranger James Holland. Photo credit: CBSNEWS

Little says he strangled his victims, however, their deaths were originally ruled as overdoses or attributed to accidental or undetermined causes. Some bodies were never found.

“For many years, Samuel Little believed he would not be caught because he thought no one was accounting for his victims,” said ViCAP Crime Analyst Christie Palazzolo.

“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 says most of the killings were carried out in Florida and California. Asked the cities he killed most in, he said Miami and Los Angeles. “And how many did you kill in Los Angeles?” Holland asked. “Los Angeles, approximately 20,” answered Little nonchalantly.

Asked by ’60 Minutes’ Sharyn Alfonsi how Little evaded the law for so long, Holland said, “He [Little] was so good at what he did. You know, ‘How did you get away with it, Sammy?’ Did the crime, left town.”

“Smart?” chipped in Alfonsi. “Oh, like genius. Yes, absolutely,” retorted Holland.

Holland said there was no time in his interview with Little that he felt being lied to. “Nothing he’s ever said has been proven to be wrong or false. We’ve been able to prove up almost everything he said.”

Judges and prosecutors nationwide had been able to close longstanding cases following Little’s confessions. It had also led to the resolution of some 50 cases of murder that had been dormant for years in just over a year as a result of the detailed confessions to Holland.

Holland said to get serial killers to talk one must avoid the “things that normally work for investigators”—like remorse and closure for the family.

“It doesn’t appeal to them at all. I mean, you’re asking them to open up their soul to the things that are more intimate to them than anything in life. Why should they do that with you? And that’s what you’re workin’ for,” Holland said.

Holland said he noticed an indication of visualization, of when Little was 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 remarkable memory and ability to visualize his victims meant he could sketch them. There are some 50 of those sketches.

And they matched the victims.

Samuel Little, America’s most prolific serial killer who went undetected for decades after murdering 93 people
Texas Ranger James Holand shows correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi the sketches Samuel Littler has drawn of some of his victims. Photo Credit: CBSNEWS

“He basically takes a photograph in his mind of exactly what he sees as he leaves them,” Holland said.

Holland caught up with Little a year and a half ago rotting away in this prison at the edge of California’s Mojave Desert. He was sentenced to three life terms in 2014 for strangling three women.

In a telephone interview with Alfonsi, Little expressed worry there might be innocent people in jail for some of his crimes.

“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,” he said.

He said his victims were “broke and homeless” walking right into his spider web.

According to him, he doesn’t think there would be another person that did what he liked to do.

“I think I’m the only one in the world. That’s not an honor. That’s a curse,” he said.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 7, 2019


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