Samuel Little’s studio is different to most art studios. For you see, the four-time convicted murderer draws from behind bars, and he doesn’t just do so to pass the time. The FBI has realized that the portraits created by the inmate have a deeper meaning. And now, they want you to pore over each one of the haunting images.
Out of context, Little’s portraiture might look like something an art student would produce while learning the tenets of figure drawing. The 26 images depict a range of subjects – they have varying skin tones, hair colors and ages. Some have huge smiles, while others look out with melancholic stares.
But with someone like Little, you can’t take such a collection at face value. For he has spent his life in trouble with the law. Yes, he served three years in jail after breaking into a furniture store in 1961. And in the next 14 years, he would be arrested 26 times across 11 states. Still, at that time, cops had no idea that Little was also a serial killer.
Based on Little’s confessions, his killings may have started as early as 1970, less than a decade after his first arrest. Over the next four decades, Little claimed, he ended the lives of 93 different people. So far, he has been convicted of four of those: three California murders in the late 1980s; one slaying in Texas in 1994.
Now, cops have already done plenty of legwork, and they believe Little’s claims are credible. For instance, they’ve linked him to the majority of the murders to which he has confessed. And this makes him the country’s most prolific serial killer of all time. Indeed, that’s part of what makes his portraiture so haunting.
From the start, Samuel Little’s life had been far from idyllic. For example, he alleges that his mother worked as a prostitute, and she moved him from his Reynolds, Georgia, birthplace to Lorain, Ohio, soon after his birth in 1940. From that point on, it would be Little’s grandmother who took the reins in raising him.
Early on, Little had discipline problems at school. Yes, in 1956 the then-16-year-old faced charges for breaking and entering into an Omaha, Nebraska, property. After that, he ended up in a facility for juvenile offenders, thus kicking off what would become a life of crime. Furthermore, at 21, he received a three-year sentence for once again breaking into someone else’s property.
Quickly, Little’s crimes progressed from break-ins to even more sinister offences. By 1975, he had racked up 26 arrests in 11 different states, facing charges of theft, fraud, assault, attacks on government representatives, and attempted rape. Behind bars, though, Little did pick up a new hobby – boxing. And, according to him, he was quite good at the fight-centric sport.
Disturbingly, Little’s hobby became of great use to him when he became a cold-blooded killer. In most cases, he would use strong punches to knock out his victims. Then, he would strangle them to death. And his modus operandi left behind few clues for investigators to pick up when they found the bodies he left behind.
Instead, according to a 2018 FBI report, Little’s victims were rarely thought to be murdered. The report stated, “With no stab marks or bullet wounds, many of these deaths were not classified as homicides but attributed to drug overdoses, accidents, or natural causes.” And it seemed as though Little scoped out his prey so that no one would ask questions.
According to the BBC, investigators revealed that Little chose “marginalized and vulnerable women” as his victims. Many of those who died at his hands were sex workers or trans women, as well as those with addiction issues. And regardless of which category they fall into, Little’s victims wouldn’t get much attention from detectives. Instead, their deaths would be ruled accidental, or no investigation would be done at all.
So that’s apparently how Little continued to roam free for decades after his alleged first slayings in the 1970s. Of course, he still had run-ins with the law. For example, in 1982 he even faced charges for the murder of Melinda Rose LaPree, who had disappeared that year. However, a grand jury failed to indict him for the killing.
After that, Little didn’t walk free – at least, not right away. While the LaPree murder investigation took place, the former boxer was shipped to Florida, where he faced another murder charge. This time, authorities suspected that he had slain Patricia Ann Mount, 26, whose body they had discovered in September of 1982.
It seemed that investigators had built a good case against Little, too. For they had witnesses to testify that they had seen him with Mount the night before she disappeared. But the jury didn’t have complete faith in these sightings, so they acquitted Little of the murder in January of 1984.
After the trial, Little moved across the country to California, where he settled in the San Diego area. Of course, his crimes came with him to his new hometown. And in October of 1984, police arrested him for kidnapping and strangling 22-year-old Laurie Barros. Luckily for her, she survived the harrowing ordeal.
Astonishingly, just a month later, police caught Little committing a similar crime in the same spot where he’d tried to kill Barros. But the second woman escaped death, too, and Little went to jail for both attempted slayings. However, he only spent two-and-a-half years behind bars, and, upon his release, he headed to Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, Little went on to kill at least ten more people. And it would be these crimes that caught up to him, although not until 2012. At that time, he lived in a homeless shelter in Kentucky when authorities arrested him over drugs. Once behind bars, California authorities had him extradited back to the Golden State.
Once in California, Little underwent DNA testing, which finally gave authorities a solid link between him and a trio of unsolved crimes: the murders of Carol Elford and Guadalupe Apodaca in 1987; and Audrey Everett in 1989. In fact, Little plead not guilty. But he was convicted of all three crimes and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But the story doesn’t end there, most certainly not.
Afterwards, Little’s case fell into the hands of the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), a specialized unit that analyzes the criminals behind offenses as violent and sexually charged as his. Here, they share their findings with local cops in the hopes that they can connect a known killer with any unsolved cases.
Analyzing Little’s modus operandi, the ViCAP found similarities between the three Los Angeles murders and a slew of killings in the 1970s. Now, the crimes took place all over the country, and some aligned with his known movements. On the FBI website, crime analyst Christina Palazzolo described one example, in which they “found a case out of Odessa, Texas, that sounded very much like him, and we could place him passing through the area around the same time.”
Suspecting that Little had a lot to hide, investigators decided to interview him from behind bars. Intriguingly, they had leverage to get him to speak – yes, they knew that he wanted to move to a new prison. So, with the promise of a transfer on the table, Little started to talk. And his chilling confessions described an unbelievable number of killings, mostly in very precise detail.
For you see, by the end Little had confessed to a stunning 93 murders, and experts at the FBI believed him. As such, Little stands as the most prolific serial killer in American history. So far, investigators have found solid links between him and 50 of the slayings on his list, which includes crimes from 1970 all the way to 2005.
On its website, the FBI explained why it’d continued to investigate the killings to which the now-79-year-old Little had confessed. For he already sat behind bars with a life sentence, after all. Its statement said, “The FBI believes it is important to seek justice for each victim – to close every case possible.”
And, although the FBI had enough to confirm 50 of the 93 confessions, they still had more than 40 outstanding ones. So, they taped the killer’s confessions and shared them. But some of Little’s recounting of the slayings came with an even more startling accompaniment – portraits he had drawn of his victims.
In total, Little drew 26 portraits of his unidentified victims, many of whom were black women. Even with these images, though, the FBI couldn’t link the images and stories to unsolved crimes. So, they turned to the public for help. Yes – they released Little’s confessions and drawings in the hope that someone could help identify the outstanding victims.
Now, the videos show Little sitting in front of a prison cinder block wall donning a blue prison jumpsuit. And the convict begins by describing a woman named Ruth, who he drew with bright red lips and a purple necklace. He says, “Oh man, I loved her. […] She was light, honey-colored skin [and] had a gap between her teeth.”
So, Little met Ruth in North Little Rock, Arkansas, between 1992 and 1994. He’d noticed her sitting on the fronch porch of a crack house, he said. And they went on to spend the next three days together. But the fun ended when Little got busted for shoplifting at a Kroger grocery store.
In some versions of the confession, the footage cuts off when Little explains what happens next. But he does tell investigators where he left Ruth’s body after their three-day rendezvous. Indeed, he said he veered off the road on the way to Bentonville and dumped her body on a trash pile next to a cornfield.
In this case, Little’s sketch hasn’t drummed up any immediate public responses. But of course, the case is ongoing. And during the video interview, he talks about disposing of the body, “She’s too big for me to carry her,” Little states. “So I just pulled her out the car, laid her on that trash, that was left there.”
Another of Little’s drawings features a woman he claimed to have murdered in 1982. In his videotaped confession, the inmate describes the woman, who he met in New Orleans. He smiles subtly as he does so, saying, “She was pretty. Light-colored, honey-brown skin.” And Little continues, adding, “She was tall for a woman. Beautiful shape. And, uh, friendly.”
Now, Little says the pair met at a New Orleans club and left together. Then, she got into his car, he says, and he eventually parked at the edge of a bayou. Then, he killed her. Chillingly he admits, “That’s the only one I ever killed by drowning.” After that he returned to a motel where he was staying in Mississippi.
What’s more, one sketch featured a white woman he met in Columbus, Kentucky in 1984. As Little recalled it, she approached his car in search of a ride to Miami. And she had short, dishwater blonde hair, he says in the videotape. He then adds, “She did give you a hippie feeling. I think she was some kind of hippie, yeah.”
As you can imagine, the blonde would end up as another unlucky woman to cross paths with Little. After hanging out in Cincinnati, the pair got into his car and drove from Ohio to Kentucky. There, they found a music festival in Covington, which piqued the woman’s interest. In the video, Little explains, “Her being a hippie type, she, ‘Whoa,’ she wanted to get to that.”
But disturbingly, Little drove the woman in the opposite direction of the festival, instead driving her up winding, desolate hills nearby. Considering the way the rest of his stories end, this one proves unsurprising. You see, Little says he found a dirt road leading up the hill, surrounded by “no houses or nothing.” There, he left the blonde hippie’s body.
Unexpectedly, one of Little’s earlier murders came with a stunningly detailed confession more than 40 years after the fact. Yes, the convicted serial killer described how he met a transgender woman named Marianne or Mary Ann in Miami, Florida. And this was in either 1971 or 1972. In fact, he saw her at two different bars over the span of just a few days.
Upon their second meeting, Little said he’d give Marianne a ride home from the Overtown-area bar. She accepted his offer, and he dropped her off at her house. Then, though, one of her roommates asked the pair if they’d go back out and pick up some shaving cream. So, Little and Marianne drove off once more.
Tragically, Marianne would never make it home again. Instead, Little got onto the highway and drove his passenger into the Everglades. With a few turns, he found his way to a river or swamp, ditching the body in the thick water. In his confession, he says he doesn’t think her body was ever recovered.
So the FBI has shared this and many of Little’s other confessions on their website. There, though, they issue a warning to readers – do not accept everything that Little recalls as fact. The FBI site states, “Samuel Little’s recollection of dates is not always accurate. He also sometimes struggles to remember the exact clothing worn by a victim.”
As such, FBI investigators urged the public not to withhold evidence if it didn’t match up with these details. The website says, “Any potential links should not be dismissed based on these two factors alone.” In the meantime, FBI agents have begun pairing his stories with Jane Doe cases that have long remained open.
For now, though, Little only has four murder convictions against him: the three California slayings, for which he found guilty of in 2013, and one Texas murder, to which he confessed in 2018. Now, investigators have the serial killer’s stories – and his new drawings – to help them. And it all could all mean that in his 79 years on Earth, Little has managed to kill almost 100 people. Let’s hope he’s eventually held to account for all of them.