Who Is Samuel Little?
Samuel Little is a mass serial killer who was arrested in 2012 for murdering three California women in the late 1980s. Through DNA evidence, Little was convicted of those murders and sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2014. Although he maintained his innocence, he soon confessed to a barrage of strangulation murders that spanned across 19 states between 1970 and 2005, ultimately culminating in 93 claims.
The FBI has confirmed Little was connected to 50 cases and is seeking help from the public to help with the cases that are pending.
Little was born as Samuel McDowell on June 7, 1940. Hailing from Reynolds, Georgia, Little claims his mother was a teenage prostitute and that she had abandoned him. Authorities believe Little's mother may have given birth to him while she was in jail. Raised by his grandmother in Lorain, Ohio, Little had a difficult time in high school and eventually dropped out.
Little began committing crimes in his teen years, starting with theft. He was thrown into juvenile detention, and from then on, his crimes grew worse. Starting in the 1950s, he moved around from state to state and got arrested for fraud, driving under the influence, assault, armed robbery and rape, among other crimes. By 1975 he had been arrested over 25 times across 11 states. In total, he served 10 years from these various offenses and escaped two murder convictions before his 2014 conviction.
Little claims he spent his years in prison learning how to box and that he showed promise as a prizefighting boxer — a career in which he ended up not pursuing.
One of the main reasons Little's murders went undetected for so long was that many of his victims and alleged victims were on the fringes of society (sex workers, homeless, drug addicts, for example), with many being women of color.
“I never killed no senators or governors or fancy New York journalists. Nothing like that,” Little told the New York Times. “I stayed in the ghettos.”
To this day, the majority of the victims remain unidentified, and many of their deaths were attributed to natural causes, drug overdoses or accidents. Little's method of killing started out by punching his victims out cold and then strangling them to death. With no bullet or stab wounds, it was difficult to detect foul play.
The LAPD gave him the name "The Choke-and-Stroke Killer" since he often masturbated while strangling his victims.
According to New York Magazine, Little believed he was commissioned by God to kill his victims to alleviate their misery. At other times, he felt he was possessed by the Devil.
In 2012 Little was located at a homeless shelter in Kentucky and transported to Los Angeles for an outstanding drug charge. Once in custody, Little had his DNA tested, which resulted in his connection to three homicides in California between 1987-1989: Carol Ilene Elford, Guadalupe Duarte Apodaca, and Audrey Nelson Everett.
In 2014 the court found him guilty of the murders and sentenced him to life in prison without parole. After Little's conviction, the FBI enlisted his information in its Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), which began finding strong links between his movements throughout the decades to a slew of unsolved murders across 19 states.
Portraits and Paintings
Although Little's memory of dates and what his victims were wearing at the time of their murders are not entirely accurate, he seems to have maintained an acute memory regarding other details. “He remembers where he was, and what car he was driving. He draws pictures of many of the women he killed,” states the FBI.
In 2018, while Little was being held in a California prison, Texas Ranger James Holland visited him in hopes of solving a 1994 murder of a prostitute named Denise Brothers in Odessa, Texas. Little ended up confessing to the murder and many more in exchange to be transferred out of L.A. County prison. Learning that Little had a talent for drawing, Holland provided him with art supplies so he could illustrate his victims. Since then, Little has produced impressively accurate portraits of his victims, which the FBI is currently using in hopes of solving several dozen cold cases.
“I live in my mind now. With my babies [victims]. In my drawings,” he told New York Magazine. “The only things I was ever good at was drawing and fighting.”
Personal Life and Health
Little had a long-term relationship with a woman named Jean, who is now deceased. She supported them by shoplifting.
Now in frail health, Little is wheelchair-bound and suffers from heart problems as well as diabetes.
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