Written By: ZMT
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Samuel Little is an American serial killer who has confessed to strangling and killing 93 people during a 35-year span. Investigators described him as a charismatic psychopath who would brutally beat his victims before strangling them. His victims were often women who were working as prostitutes. The police called him the “The Choke-and-Stroke Killer,” because he would often strangle women while masturbating. The FBI has connected at least 50 murders to Little, outnumbering the crimes of other infamous serial killers such as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and The Green River Killer and making him the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history.
Drifting Towards a Life of Crime
Samuel Little was born on June 7, 1940. Investigators said Little may have been born in jail in Reynolds, Georgia during one of his mother’s arrests. Little has told investigators that his mother had been a sex worker. After giving birth to Little, his mother reportedly abandoned him on the side of the road. He was then taken in and raised by his grandmother in Lorain, Ohio.
Samuel Little had a turbulent childhood and it did not improve during his teenage years. He attended Hawthorne Junior High School, where he had problems with discipline and achievement. He is described as a troublemaker and had a tendency to challenge authority.
He started committing crimes in his teen years, beginning with petty theft. In February 1954, Little was committed to the Boy’s Industrial School a reformatory for teenagers near Columbus Ohio for stealing a bicycle. By the time he left the institution, he has been reported 47 times for disciplinary infractions.
His crimes escalated as time went on. In the late 1950s, Little started roaming state to state. In 1961, he was convicted of burglary in Lorain, Ohio. In 1966, he was arrested in Cleveland, Ohio for battery and assault of a woman. Throughout his twenties, Little was arrested at least eight times. However, he was mostly acquitted for these crimes and he did not serve the full sentence for those that he was found guilty of.
It wasn’t until he moved to Florida in the early 1970s when he was 31 years old that he began to kill.
A ‘Not-so-little’ Murder Spree
Samuel Little claimed he murdered 93 women between 1970 and 2005. He allegedly committed murders across 19 states.
Little’s first victim is believed to be Mary Brosley from Florida. He picked her up at a bar in North Miami Beach on January 31, 1970. He then drove her to a secluded area near the Everglades where he claimed he killed her before burying her. This was the start of a murder spree that spanned 35 years.
Little’s method of killing started out by punching his victims out cold. Little spent his years in prison learning how to box to be a prizefighting boxer. Because of his skills, he punched with such force that when he struck one of his victims in the abdomen he broke her spine.
After knocking victims unconscious, Little would strangle them to death. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) gave him the name “The Choke-and-Stroke Killer” because he was also known to masturbate on his victims as he kept them in a stranglehold. Little even boasted to investigators how he would prolong the murders by letting women slip in and out of consciousness because he took sexual pleasure from it.
He targeted mainly “marginalized and vulnerable women”, including (sex workers, homeless, and drug addicts. When asked why he chose them, Little said God ordered him to kill his victims to end their suffering. At other times, he claimed he was possessed by the Devil when he did the crimes.
A Long Game of Hide-and-Seek
In May 1971, Little was arrested for armed robbery in Cleveland, but he was also acquitted. Throughout the 1970s, he moved around the Midwest and South with a woman named Orelia “Jean” Dorsey who was his girlfriend, traveling companion and partner in crime until she died from a brain hemorrhage in 1988.
Throughout the 1970s, Little would confess to committing several murders across both regions. However, most of these victims are still unknown. In September 1976, he was arrested for a rape charge in St. Louise Missouri and was sentenced three months in county jail. But like in his early years, he was arrested for a variety of petty crimes but only spent a little time in jail.
His pattern of getting arrested and acquitted continued into the 80s. In January 1984, Little was tried for the murder of Patricia Ann Mount, with whom he was seen leaving a bar in 1982. Her body was found in a field, bruised and naked. He was also acquitted on all charges. In his confessions, little told investigators that he killed at least 10 women in the South and Midwest in the 1980s before he moved to California.
His killing spree came to a temporary halt in October 1984 when he is arrested for two assaults in San Diego and tried for attempted murder. After pleading guilty to assault and false imprisonment, he was sentenced and served two and a half years in prison.
After he was released from prison, Little relocated again to Los Angeles. In 1987, he killed Carol Elford. Her body was dumped in a South Central alleyway. Later in 2014, Little is convicted of killing Elford, but she is only one of the seven women Little claims he murdered in the city that year. The identities of the other alleged victims are still unknown.
Little’s remained active throughout the 1990s. Aside from petty crimes, Little claimed he murdered several women throughout the decade in Los Angeles, the South and Ohio.
The serial killer claims that his final murder occurred in 2005. The victim was a woman he named as ‘Nancy’ in Tupelo, Mississippi. Authorities believe he is involved in the killing of Nancy Carol Stevens, whose body was found off a road August of the same year.
Ending a 35-year Kill Streak
Little left a string of unsolved murders in his wake for almost four decades and had even close calls with the police. So why did it take so long to arrest him?
Throughout his life, Samuel interchangeably used his paternal grandparents’ surname, McDowell, and his mother’s surname, Little. This made it difficult for authorities to see a clear pattern of the string of murders he committed over the decades.
Little also believed that he would not be caught for his crimes, because he believed that no one was accounting for his victims. Most of his murders went undetected for so long because many of his victims and alleged victims were considered to be on the fringes of society, with many being women of color. He said he only targeted people whose deaths will not be investigated by the police.
The FBI noted that many of the deaths of Little’s victims had originally been ruled as overdoses or from accidental or unknown causes. In other cases, the women went missing and their bodies were never found, but their cases gathered little to no attention.
Aside from Little’s pattern of also moving from state to state, limitations of DNA evidence also played a role in how long it took for authorities to pin down Little’s killing spree.
The re-opening of several cold cases led to Little’s eventual arrest in 2012. DNA evidence collected over years in the criminal justice system that was the first concrete evidence that connected him to several women who had been killed. In September 5, 2012, Little was tracked down and at a homeless center in Louisville, Kentucky and was extradited to California for a narcotics charge. The Los Angeles Police Department then tied Little’s DNA to three murders of unsolved murders of Audrey Nelson, Guadalupe Apodaca, and Carol Elford between 1987 and 1989.
In 2014, he was convicted of murdering Nelson, Apodaca, and Elford, and sentenced to three consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.
But the local police departments across the country were convinced he was tied to other unsolved cases of a similar nature. In 2018, detective James Holland from the Texas Ranger Division made a bargain with Little. If he confessed to one of their cold cases, they would take the death penalty off the table and offered him a prison transfer.
Little took the deal. Aside from his 650 hours’ worth of confessions with law enforcement, he also sketched dozens of detailed chalk pastel portraits of his victims. These confessions and drawings helped to link him to other murder cases.
On December 13, 2018, Little was charged with murder in one of the killings he confessed to. He was found guilty of the slaying of Denise Christie Brothers in Odessa, Texas back in 1994 and received another life imprisonment sentence.
In August 2019, he received four consecutive life terms for the murders of Anna Stewart and a still-unidentified “Jane Doe.” Authorities have been able to link 50 of the alleged murders with Little. Most of the cases are still pending confirmation.
End of the Road: Deciphering Confessions
Currently, Little is imprisoned at the California State Prison, Los Angeles County. Samuel Little is now serving four life sentences without the possibility of parole. Due to his plea bargain, Little will avoid a death penalty in exchange for his confessions.
In 2019, the FBI has confirmed Little to be “the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history” after he has been matched with 50 cases. His confirmed kill count is almost double than that of notorious killer Ted Bundy.
More murder indictments are being filed across the country as Little’s confessions are matched to old cases and as new victims are identified. Little continues to work with the FBI and detective Holland to identify his victims and retell his crimes. Now in failing health, Samuel Little is wheelchair-bound and suffers from heart problems and diabetes.
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