Samuel Little, the most prolific US serial killer, dies at 80

America’s most prolific serial killer Samuel Little, who confessed to murdering 93 people over 30 years, dies in prison aged 80 – as police continue to search for victims using his sketches

  • Samuel Little died at a California hospital on Wednesday, authorities announced
  • The 80-year-old was regarded as the most prolific serial killer in US history 
  • Little, who suffered from diabetes and heart trouble, had been serving a life sentence at the time of his death
  • He had long denied killing anyone until 2018 when he confessed to 93 murders
  • The killings were carried out between 1970 and 2005, across several states 
  • Only 60 murders have been confirmed and authorities continue to search for victims 
  • Little had given authorities dozens of paintings and drawings of his victims, the majority of which were women 

Samuel Little, the most prolific serial killer in US history with 60 confirmed victims,  died at the age of 80 on Wednesday, authorities have confirmed.

Little, who had diabetes, heart trouble and other ailments, died at a California hospital, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 

He was serving a life sentence after being convicted of multiple counts of murder in 2014.

California corrections department spokeswoman Vicky Waters said there was no sign of foul play, and his cause of death will be determined by a coroner.

Little, a career criminal who had been in and out jail for decades, had denied for years he’d ever killed anyone.

Then, in 2018, he opened up to Texas Ranger James Holland, who had been asked to question him about a killing it turned out Little didn’t commit. 

During approximately 700 hours of interviews, however, Little provided details of scores of slayings only the killer would know.

Serial killer Samuel Little (pictured during a court hearing in LA in 2014) died in a California hospital on Wednesday, authorities confirmed. He was 80 years old

Little, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2014, had long denied killing anyone until 2018 when he confessed to killing 93 people

A skilled artist, he even provided Holland with dozens of paintings and drawings of his victims, sometimes scribbling their names when he could remember them, as well as details such as the year and location of the murder and where he’d dumped the body.

By the time of his death, Little had confessed to killing 93 people between 1970 and 2005. Most of the slayings took place in Florida and Southern California.

Authorities, who continue to investigate his claims, said they have confirmed nearly 60 killings and have no reason to doubt the others.

‘Nothing he’s ever said has been proven to be wrong or false,’ Holland told the CBS’ 60 Minutes in 2019.

The numbers dwarf those of Green River killer Gary Ridgeway (49), ‘Killer Clown’ John Wayne Gacy (33) and Ted Bundy (36).

Almost all of Little’s victims were women, many of them prostitutes, drug addicts or poor people living on the edges of society. 

Once a strong, strapping boxer who used his powerful hands to strangle his victims, Little had been using a wheelchair to get around before is death

Pictured left: Black male, age 18, killed in 1971 or 1972 in Miami. Victim possibly called Mary Ann or Marianne. Pictured center: Black female killed in 1992 or 1993 in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Pictured right: White female between 23-25 years old killed in 1996 

Left: Female, possibly of Cuban descent, between 25-35 years old. Killed in 1971 in Kendall, Florida. Victim possibly called ‘Sarah’ or ‘Donna’. Center: Black female between 30-40 years old killed in 1982 in New Orleans. Right: Black female, age 40, killed in 1993 in Las Vegas

Left: White female killed in 1984 in Kentucky. Met victim in Columbus, Ohio. Body disposed of somewhere in Northern Kentucky. Center: Black female killed in 1974 in Ohio. Right: Hispanic female in her 40s. Killed in 1988 or 1996 in Arizona. Victim possibly from Phoenix

Left: White female between 33-44 years old. Killed in 1982 in New Orleans. Center: Black female between 28-29 years old killed in 1984 in Arkansas. Victim picked up in Tennessee. Right: Black female, age 24, killed between 1987 and the early 1990s Monroe, Louisiana

Left: Black female killed in 1984 in Tampa Bay, Florida. Center: Black female between 22-23 years old killed in 1974 in Savannah, Georgia. Right: Black female killed in 1977 or 1978 in Plant City, Florida. Met victim in Clearwater, Florida 

Left: Black female between 26-27 years old killed in 1987 in Los Angeles. Center: White female between 20-25 years old killed in 1972. Victim possibly from Massachusetts. Right: Black female between 35-45 years old killed in 1977. Met the victim in Gulfport, Mississippi

Left: Black female between 35-40 years old killed in 1981 in Atlanta, Georgia. Center: Black female age 23 killed in 1984 in Savannah, Georgia. Right: Black female killed in 1992 or 1993 in Los Angeles

Left: Black female between 23-25 years old killed in 1996 in Los Angeles. Victim possibly called “Sheila’. Right: Black female between 23-25 years old killed in 1984 in Atlanta, Georgia. Victim possibly a college student

In a 60 Minutes special that aired in September, Texas ranger, James Holland revealed how he plied Little (left), with pizza, Dr Pepper and art supplies over 700 hours of interviews to get him to confess to 93 murders 

They were individuals, he said he believed, who would leave few people behind to look for them and not much evidence for police to follow.

Indeed, local authorities in states across the country initially classified many of the deaths as accidents, drug overdoses or the result of unknown causes.

Little strangled most of his victims, usually soon after meeting them during chance encounters. He drowned one, a woman he met at a nightclub in 1982.

He was nearly 80, in failing health and serving a life sentence in a California prison when he began confiding to Holland in May 2018, after years of refusing to talk to other authorities. 

Once a strong, strapping boxer who used his powerful hands to strangle his victims, he was now using a wheelchair to get around.

Holland has described Little as both a genius and a sociopath, adding the killer could never adequately explain to him why he did what he did. 

Although known as an expert interrogator, Holland himself said he could only guess at why Little opened up to him.

Little, who had been described by detectives as both a genius and a sociopath, had been a career criminal who had been in and out jail for decades. He is pictured above in 1975 and 1995

Authorities only recently began unraveling his serial killing spree after he was arrested at a homeless shelter in Kentucky in 2012 and extradited to California to face drug charges

The ranger did work tirelessly to create and maintain a bond with the killer during their hundreds of hours of interviews, bringing him favorite snacks such as pizza, Dr. Pepper and grits and discussing their mutual interest in sports. 

He also gave Little assurances that he wouldn’t be executed.

Holland would address Little by his childhood nickname, Sammy, while Little called Holland Jimmy and once told the Los Angeles Times he’d ‘found a friend in a Texas ranger.’

He told 60 Minutes he hoped his confessions might exonerate anyone wrongly convicted of his crimes.

‘I say if I can help get somebody out of jail, you know, then God might smile a little bit more on me,’ he said.

A transient who traveled the country when he wasn´t in jail for larceny, assault, drugs or other crimes, Little said he started killing in Miami on New Year´s Eve 1970.

‘It was like drugs,’ he told Holland. ‘I came to like it.’

Pearl Nelson (left) holds a photo of her late mother Audrey Nelson, a victim of serial killer Samuel Little, with Mary Louise Frias, goddaughter of another victim, Guadalupe Apodaca Zambrano, during a news conference at Los Angeles Superior Court in 2014

Little was seen raising his fist as he was led out of the courtroom after being sentenced to three consecutive terms of life in prison without parole for murdering three women in the late 1980s in 2014

His last killing was in 2005, he said, in Tupelo, Mississippi. He also killed people in Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Kentucky, Nevada, Arkansas and other states.

Kentucky authorities finally caught up with him in 2012 after he was arrested on drug charges and his DNA linked him to three California killings.

When he began recounting the other slayings, authorities were astounded at how much he remembered. His paintings, they said, indicated he had a photographic memory.

One killing was solved after Little recalled the victim wore dentures. Another after he told Holland he’d killed the victim near a set of unusual looking arches in Florida. 

A victim he met outside a Miami strip club in 1984 was remembered as being 25 years old with short blond hair, blue eyes and a ‘hippie look.’

As he continued to talk, authorities across the country rushed to investigate old cases, track down relatives and bring closure to families.

Little revealed few details about his own life other than that he was raised in Lorain, Ohio, by his grandmother. Authorities said he often went by the name Samuel McDowell.

He was married once, Little said, and involved in two long-term relationships.

He claimed he developed a fetish for women’s necks after becoming sexually aroused when he saw his kindergarten teacher touch her neck. 

He was always careful, he added, to avoid looking at the necks of his wife or girlfriends and never hurt anyone he loved.

‘I don’t think there was another person who did what I liked to do,’ he told 60 Minutes.

‘I think I’m the only one in the world. And that’s not an honor, that is a curse.’

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