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 according to Little, those three were just the tip of the ice berg.

The three victims Little was first linked to had each been beaten and strangled to death between 1987 and 1989 — and as any true crime aficionado will tell you, it’s unusual for those types of murders to remain an isolated incident. Killers often tend to build up toward such brutal murders over time, lending itself to Little’s history of run ins with the law, but once a troubled person crosses the line into carrying out such a brutal slaying, they tend not to stop until they’re caught.

And if you ask Little, he’ll tell you himself that those women were far from his final victims. In fact, per Little’s own testimony to police, he’s the most prolific serial killer in American history. His list of victims, according to his own statements, could climb high as 90 — placing him at the top of the American serial killer standings, beating out the likes of Gary Ridgway, the “Green River Killer,” at 49 confirmed victims by a wide margin.

If Little’s claims prove true, his kill count would total nearly three times that of infamous clown-killer, John Wayne Gacy. In fact, you could add Gacy’s kill count to Ted Bundy’s, and then throw in all of Jeffrey Dahmer’s and Richard Ramirez’s (also known as the Night Stalker)… and you still wouldn’t match the alleged forty-year killing spree Little fessed up to.

Left to Right: Gary Ridgway, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez. If Little’s Claims hold up, he’ll have killed more people than most of them added together. (WikiMedia Commons)

But fessing up isn’t the same as actually committing the crimes — and it isn’t unusual for killers to lie about how many people they’ve killed once they realize the jig is up. Little has already been given three consecutive life sentences for the three murders he was linked to in Los Angeles, leaving him with no motive to claim innocence. Instead, many suspected Little of lying in order to gain fame as a killer and prestige among his fellow inmates. After all — we’re not talking about the wild west or an underdeveloped nation, we’re talking about killing 90 people in modern America. Little claims to have killed most of his victims with his bare hands after all — if it were true, surely he’d have been caught long ago, right?

Murder in America Part 2: The chances of catching a murderer today are only slightly better than flipping a coin

Read Next: Murder in America Part 2: The chances of catching a murderer today are only slightly better than flipping a coin

The unfortunate truth is, despite what the American public may believe after years of watching police procedural dramas and any number of CSI iterations, it can be remarkably easy to get away with murder in the United States. In today’s world full of cell phone cameras and DNA evidence, most would assume that committing a crime as egregious as murder would guarantee you a spot in the local penitentiary… but the chances that a murderer is caught in the United States, even today, is still only slightly better than flipping a coin.

And with the FBI now claiming that they’ve been able to link Little to at least 34 of his claimed murders, it’s starting to seem like that impossible 90 figure might actually be possible after all…

This analysis is continued in Part II.