LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (NBC News) - A serial killer who has confessed to 90 murders has drawn 16 of his alleged victims as the FBI works to connect him to decades-old cold cases across the country.
Samuel Little, 78, was convicted in 2014 of killing three women in California in 1987 and 1989. He was sentenced to three consecutive life terms.
He had always maintained his innocence in those three cases, but last year, in exchange for a prison transfer to Texas from California, "Little was willing to talk," according to an FBI report.
Little has confessed to killing 90 women, and the FBI has been trying to line up those admissions with unsolved deaths in more than a dozen states, including Arkansas, between 1970 and 2005.
Shortly after Little's confessions in November, the FBI was quickly able to confirm he had killed 34 people. Recently, eight more of his confessions were confirmed or matched to open cases, the FBI said Tuesday.
But more than half of the confessions remain unconfirmed.
If his claims are true, he would be the most prolific serial killer in the nation's history.
One confession has been matched to a Jane Doe in West Memphis, Arkansas. The FBI has identified the body as a black female between 28-29 years-old killed in 1984. And say the victim was picked up in Memphis, Tennessee. She is depicted in the illustration above.
Two other confessions have placed victims in Arkansas, though those have yet to be confirmed by authorities. One in North Little Rock, a black female killed in 1992 or 1993; another in Pine Bluff, a black female killed between 1990 and 1997.
"Little chose to kill marginalized and vulnerable women who were often involved in prostitution and addicted to drugs. Their bodies sometimes went unidentified and their deaths uninvestigated," an FBI report states.
Because Little was once a competitive boxer he usually knocked out his victims and there weren't obvious signs the victims had been murdered, authorities say.
A large number of the killings occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s, before DNA profiling was part of the law enforcement toolbox. After DNA analysis came into play, the victims’ work as prostitutes complicated the ability of police to gather telling physical evidence.
Another challenge facing investigators is that while Little can describe his victims and how and where he killed them in great detail, he is unsure on dates.
"Little’s uncertain timeline has created a verification challenge ... along with the issues stemming from the victims Little targeted, his methods, and how much he moved around—features of his crimes that begin to explain how he got away with murder for decades," said an FBI statement.
In the early 1980s, Little had also been charged with killing women in Mississippi and Florida but escaped indictment in Mississippi and conviction in Florida. He had, however, served time for assaulting a woman in Missouri and for the assault and false imprisonment of a woman in San Diego, the FBI says.
Little did plead guilty in December to the 1994 strangulation of Denise Christie Brothers in Odessa, Texas.
He "is in poor health and will likely stay in prison in Texas until his death," the FBI said in November. Their goal "is to identify his victims and provide closure and justice in unsolved cases."
But local officials in the places where Little murdered his victims have the choice to bring charges against him, an FBI spokesman has said.
“The biggest lesson, in this case, is the power of information sharing,” said Kevin Fitzsimmons, FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) Supervisory Crime Analyst. “These connections all started in our database of violent crime.”
“A Jane Doe who turned up dead in an alley in New Orleans may look like an isolated event,” stressed Fitzsimmons. “But when entered into the ViCAP database and examined with other mysterious deaths or missing persons, patterns emerge. That is the value of ViCAP."
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