Back in 2012, police arrived at a Kentucky homeless shelter to arrest a relatively unassuming-looking middle-aged man. Samuel Little was no stranger to run-ins with the law — having been previously arrested for crimes ranging from shoplifting to fraud — so he offered no resistance as local police turned him over to California law enforcement, where his warrant had been issued.
However, once Little found himself in the custody of the Los Angeles Police Department, things quickly escalated beyond the narcotics charges he was wanted for: the DNA sample police took as they processed him came back as a match for not one murder in the city of Los Angeles, but three. Putting the man responsible for the murder of three people behind bars is a red-letter day for any law enforcement agency… but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
It wasn’t long before Little, by then facing multiple life sentences, started coming clean about other murders he claimed to have committed… but early on, his grandiose claims of dozens of murders seemed a bit like theater. It isn’t unheard of for a convicted killer to claim responsibility for other murders in order to gain infamy or social standing in prison, after all… but as police started comparing his claims to open cases, they came to a horrifying realization: It seemed Samuel Little may have been telling the truth.
Now, seven years after he first found himself behind bars for murder, the FBI released a statement over the weekend confirming that they have been able to link Little to a whopping 50 murders thus far, and that they believe the remaining 43 murder confessions to be credible. All told, the FBI now believes that Samuel Little was responsible for the slaying of 93 people, the vast majority of which were women he strangled to death with his bare hands.
The FBI has posted many of Little’s confessions on YouTube, so viewers can watch and contact them if his claims align with missing persons or homicide cases that have yet to be closed.
“He remembers where he was, and what car he was driving,” an FBI statement said about his claimed slayings. “He draws pictures of many of the women he killed.”
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this decades-long murder spree was the fact that law enforcement around the nation weren’t hot on the trail of a woman-strangling serial killer, despite Little racking up a kill count that’s potential higher than the kill counts of John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Ramirez combined. And we’re not talking about a serial killer that’s a relic of a bygone era: Little’s murder spree may have begun in serial killer-heavy 1970s, but it continued until the mid-2000s. For those that don’t believe serial killers can operate in the “CSI Era,” it’s worth noting that Little was still actively hunting women well into season 5 of the science-based crime drama. In fact, Little’s final kill came the same year CSI saw two spinoffs hit TV airwaves.
H.H. Holmes managed to evade capture for only four years after killing an alleged 27 women in the 1890s, despite operating around 50 years before American citizens would be issued Social Security numbers to keep track of their identities. Samuel Little, on the other hand, may have killed more than three times that many women over the span of forty years, despite the significant technological advances in surveillance and law enforcement in the intervening century. If Little can kill 93 women and go unnoticed in modern America, it begs the question: is the era of serial killing really over?
As of 2016, the nationwide murder “clearance rate,” or the rate in which murders were solved, was only 59.4%. That means a bit more than 40% of all murders in our country never lead to a conviction, but even those statistics can be a bit misleading. In some parts of major cities, as few as 33% of murders will result in law enforcement even making an arrest, let alone following through to any conviction. To put that another way, in some parts of Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, and many other cities, 7 out of 10 murders go unsolved.
Of course, that’s not to suggest that all of those unsolved murders were committed by serial killers — quite the opposite. The vast majority of these murders were likely committed by someone with ties to the victim, and often, law enforcement may even have a suspect — they just lack the evidence required to secure a conviction. But the remainder still leaves a lot of room for active serial killers to operate. How many? Well, according to Thomas Hargrove, the founder of the Murder Accountability Project, only about 2% of all murders are committed by a traditionally defined “serial killer.” According to his math, that leaves room for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,100 undiscovered serial killers operating in America today.
The FBI has already tied Little to enough murders to make him the most prolific serial killer in American history, edging out Gary Ridgway, the “Green River Killer,” with a career total of 49 confirmed victims. If all of Little’s 93 slayings are confirmed, his death toll will nearly double Ridgway’s longstanding record. One can only hope that Little’s reign atop the serial killer heap will be longer lasting.
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