Since May 2018, convicted murderer Samuel Little, 78, has confessed to killing more than 90 women in at least 16 states between 1970 and 2005, making him one of the most prolific — and previously unknown — serial killers in history. So far, the FBI has been able to link Little to more than 30 unsolved cold cases across the country, relying on Little’s somewhat fuzzy timeline, the number of alleged murders in each city, and his detailed descriptions of the women he strangled. But many of Little’s alleged murders remain uncorroborated, making it difficult for the FBI to confirm that all of his confessions are truthful, and if so, whether their bodies were ever recovered or identified by local authorities. Earlier this week, the FBI released 16 vivid portraits of women, all drawn by Little from his prison cell in Texas, that they suspect are among his victims — and they’re asking for the public’s help in identifying them.
“We are hoping that someone — family member, former neighbor, friend — might recognize the victim and provide that crucial clue in helping authorities make an identification,” FBI spokeswoman Shayne Buchwald said in a statement. “We want to give these women their names back and their family some long-awaited answers. It’s the least we can do.”
Each of the 16 drawings released by the FBI on February 12th is marked with a city and year representing where and when authorities suspect the murder occurred. Little’s drawings are strikingly vivid, unique and, according to the FBI, accurately detailed, having already aided investigators in connecting Little to the murders of two previously unidentified murder victims in Maryland and Arkansas.
Little targeted marginalized women, many of them women of color and/or sex workers, and the FBI has admitted that many of the murder victims they’ve linked to Little had never been identified, their cases barely investigated, let alone solved. Although Little, a former competitive boxer, usually beat his victims and then strangled them while masturbating, according to the FBI, “many of these deaths were not classified as homicides but attributed to drug overdoses, accidents or natural causes.”
Authorities have also said that Little’s crimes went unnoticed for decades because of he never stayed in one place for very long, and police departments lacked the technology to access national databases and easily share information with other jurisdictions. While DNA testing technology has existed for nearly 20 years, the vast majority of the cases that the FBI has been able to link to Little’s confessions had no DNA evidence to test because it hadn’t been collected. Very few had even been entered into the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) database.
Little’s rap sheet stretches all the way back to 1956, serving time in prison for shoplifting, fraud, breaking and entering, assault and false imprisonment. He’d been charged with multiple murders before, too, in both Mississippi and Florida, though never convicted. In 2012, DNA linked Little to three unsolved murders — all women who had been beaten and strangled in California from the 1980s. While he maintained his innocence throughout his trial, several women testified to barely surviving their own encounters with Little, and he was convicted in 2014. By that point, the FBI had already noticed “an alarming pattern” between Little’s travels and the locations of several other unsolved murders across the country; already serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Little agreed to talk to investigators about his many other alleged murders in exchange for a prison transfer from California to Texas.
The FBI is asking anyone with information about the women portrayed in Little’s drawings or the case in general to call the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program at (800) 634-4097.