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Explained: Who was Samuel Little, America’s most prolific serial killer?

Samuel Little, whose criminal record was more deadly than that of infamous killers such as the Green River killer Gary Ridgway (49 murders), Ted Bundy (36) and John Wayne Gacy (33), was serving three consecutive life sentences without parole.

Samuel Little, pictured in 2018, confessed to having committed 93 murders between 1970 and 2005. (AP photo)

Samuel Little, who the FBI described last year as the “most prolific” serial killer in US history, died on Wednesday in a hospital in California. Although convicted for the murder of three women in 2014, Little had by the time of his death confessed to killing 93 women between 1970 and 2005.

Little, whose criminal record was more deadly than that of infamous killers such as the Green River killer Gary Ridgway (49 murders), Ted Bundy (36) and John Wayne Gacy (33), was serving three consecutive life sentences without parole.

Who was Samuel Little?

Little, a former competitive boxer, would mostly target marginalised and vulnerable women, such as sex workers and drug addicts, who he believed would have few people looking for them after they were killed. He would knock his victims out first by punching them, and then strangle them to death. As per the FBI, many of his victims’ deaths, however, were originally ruled overdoses or attributed to accidental or undetermined causes.

Little would then dump their bodies in an alley, a dumpster and a garage. Some bodies were never found, the agency’s website reads.

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In 2012, Little was arrested at a homeless shelter in the southern state of Kentucky on a drug-related charge, and was then extradited to California. Even before the arrest, Little had a large criminal record across the US, with crimes ranging from armed robbery to rape, and had been in and out of jail for many years.

Samuel Little: Over the years (Timeline by FBI)

In California, authorities carried out DNA testing on Little, which linked him to three unsolved killings from 1987 and 1989 in Los Angeles county. At the trial, Little pleaded not guilty, but was convicted and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, without parole.

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America’s ‘most prolific’ killer

In 2018, while still in jail, Little opened up to Texas Ranger James Holland, who began to elicit from Little a breathtaking number of confessions. Holland interviewed Little for around 700 hours, during which Little provided details of several killings that had until then only been known to him. Known as an expert interrogator, Holland has described Little as both a genius and a sociopath.


Parallelly, the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) was also linking cases to Little.

Then, in October 2019, the FBI confirmed Little to be the “most prolific” serial killer in US history. The agency also said its analysts believed that all of the 93 confessions he had made until then were “credible”, and uploaded some of the confession videos on YouTube.

So far, law enforcement agencies have verified nearly 60 of these murders, an Associated Press report said.



Little was also a skilled artist, and drew pictures of his victims for the FBI. The agency released these pictures online in an effort to seek public assistance in helping trace the killings. In some of the pictures, Little has written details alongside, such as the name of the victim, in which year the killing took place and where he killed them.

Map of the US showing where the killings took place, and pictures of victims Little drew in jail

“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.”

First published on: 01-01-2021 at 08:44:38 pm
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