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Samuel Little: The Most Prolific Serial Killer In U.S. History Has Finally Been Found

People | October 23, 2019

Samuel Little, Maybe The Most Prolific Serial Killer In American History (Photo by Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Serial killers hold a strange place in our collective consciousness. We abhor the terrible crimes they commit but also examine them with a strange, morbid curiosity. As TV shows like Netflix's Mindhunter and Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes grow more and more popular, real-life police may have recently uncovered the most prolific serial killer in the history of the United States.

In this handout photo provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, serial killer Samuel Little is seen in a composite image depicting multiple mug shots/booking photos from 1966-1995. Little, who is currently serving a life sentence, has confessed to

The Worst Serial Killer In U.S. History

His name is Samuel Little, and he was born in Reynolds, Georgia in 1940. After spending most of his adult life in and out of prison, a judge finally just handed him a life sentence in 2014 for the murder of Elford Nelson. However, that was just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of his terrifying story may not have seen the light of day if not for the work of a particular Texas Ranger. (No, not that one. Sorry.)

Interviewer And Interviewee (heavy.com)

How To Break A Serial Killer

Police had long suspected Little's involvement in a number of murders, but they had little success in cracking the tough, old nut---that is, until FBI analysts Christie Palazzolo and Angela Williams dug into old case files and found cases that fit Little's methods. They then called in Texas Ranger James Holland, who is considered an expert in interview and interrogation techniques, to help unearth Little's past.  

Over The Course Of Many InterViews Holland And Little Developed A Rapport (CBSnews.com)

Interviewing A Serial Killer

At first, Holland plied Little with Peanut M&Ms and conversations about boxing. (Little was once a small-time professional boxer.) That failed when Little, who was awaiting appeal on three murders, shut down, insisting he would win and be free again one day.

Then Holland brought up an Odessa, Texas murder case, and for some reason, Little lit up with excitement. Despite his previous assertions, he began discussing the 1994 murder in intimate detail. He even started spilling about other murders: "Jackson, Mississippi---one. Cincinnati, Ohio---one. Phoenix, Arizona---three." None of his recollections aligned with information in FBI databases, but further investigation into local records turned up case after case that fit Little's descriptions. 

Little's Sketches Of His Victims (cnn.com)

A Gruesome Tally

In the end, Little confessed to killing 90 women. His terrible exploits spanned the entire country, though most of the slayings occurred in Los Angeles and Miami. With eerie precision, Little shared incredibly detailed information that police were stunned to find accurate.

"This is not a case of him boasting," said Kevin Fitzsimmons, supervisory analyst for the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. "Law enforcement has verified he did these things. It takes a lot of work, but we are doing it."

Holland's Interrogation of Little Helped Bring Answers to those Gone Missing (allthatsinteresting.com)

Closure Thanks To A Texas Ranger:

When Holland is asked how he extracts information from killers, his answer chills:

"You avoid the things that normally work for investigators. You avoid things like remorse and closure for the family. It doesn't appeal to them at all. I mean, you're asking them to open up their soul to the things that are more intimate to them than anything in life. Why should they do that with you? And that's what you're workin' for."

FBI's Releases Information In Hopes of Tracking Down The Unaccounted for Victims (news5cleveland.com)

The FBI's Pleas For Help

Not all of Little’s descriptions have been matched to an unsolved murder. That's why the FBI has released transcripts of interviews with Little and sketches he drew for them with the hope of getting more information from the public about these cases.

When Holland was asked how Little operated for so long without being caught, he marveled that Little "was so good at what he did. You know, 'How did you get away with it, Sammy?' Did the crime, left town." The experience was clearly haunting for the Texas Ranger. "The first thing I picked up on is how wicked smart he was. Oh, like genius."

Tags: crime | murder | picasso self portraits | serial killers

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!