JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Over more than three decades, one man told authorities he murdered nearly a hundred people, including ten in Mississippi and one -- a male teenager -- in Jackson.
3 On Your Side dug into Samuel Little’s Southern connections to see if his bold statements are true and asked what local law enforcement is doing to nail his story down.
After decades as a drifter, a DNA match put Samuel Little in prison for three counts of murder in California in 2014.
When Los Angeles detectives asked the FBI to do a full background check on Little, federal investigators discovered what they called an “alarming pattern” with possible ties to more murders that matched his method: strangulation.
Armed with that information, agents with the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program showed up to interview Little in the spring and offered to move him to a different facility in exchange for his help.
Now, while Little does time in a Texas jail, investigators from at least 15 states are listening to every detail he gives, hoping to find answers to decades-old killings that have never been solved.
So far he’s told them he killed 90 people -- the most of any serial killer in history if confirmed -- and many of those could have happened here.
“They were interviewing him in the context of every homicide that he’s committed, and when they were, he started giving up homicides in Mississippi," Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson said.
Little confessed to killing 10 people in Mississippi.
So far, law enforcement agents from Tupelo to the Gulf Coast have managed to tie Little to six such cases, all women, in a timeline that stretches nearly thirty years.
The first involved a woman who still hasn’t been identified, according to the FBI: a black female between the ages of 35 and 45, killed in Pascagoula in 1977.
Little said the woman worked at Ingalls Shipyard.
One year later, deputies found 36-year-old Julia Critchfield of Harrison County in a dirt pit north of Saucier.
“She was robbed of the memories that we could have had, should have had, and needed,” said Critchfield’s daughter Coyce Blair.
In 1982, officers discovered the body of Melinda LaPree in a Gautier cemetery, and managed to link Little to the crime, but they didn’t have enough evidence to secure an indictment.
Ten years later, the bodies of Alice Taylor and Tracy Johnson were found three weeks apart. At the time, investigators believed the two friends had been killed by the same person.
Little’s confession revealed the two were together when he met them.
Finally, Lee County deputies matched Little to the death of 46-year-old Nancy Stevens at a Walmart in Tupelo in 2005, after his confession matched details only the killer would know.
Many investigators around the country say it’s remarkable how much he still remembers.
“Cases like this, you never forget. Those unsolved cases. I’m not going to say they haunt you, but they’re always in the back of your mind," Richland County, South Carolina Sheriff Leon Lott said. "The time period, the location, certain things that we discovered at the crime scene, all of those things matched.”
In Mississippi, four such confessions remain unmatched, though. Three murders, Little said, happened in Gulfport, all involving black women in their twenties.
One took place sometime between 1980 and 1984 and two more occurred in 1988. That leaves one murder in Jackson: a 16-year-old black male. That case stands out because Little almost exclusively targeted and killed women.
3 On Your Side reached out to Jackson police to see what they made of his claims. Sgt. Roderick Holmes said the department is aware of a possible connection to a past murder from the 1980s that took place in Jackson. Holmes said investigators have been in contact with other authorities and they are looking into the matter.
3 On Your Side also looked into the matter -- using a tool known as the Murder Accountability Project.
Organizers of the project use FBI data from across the country on homicides to provide a quick resource for searching unsolved cases in every state and county. In other words, 3 On Your Side wanted to see if there was a case that matched the victim Little said he killed in Jackson.
A cursory search found one case from 1984 -- still unsolved -- involving a black male of unknown age who died from asphyxiation, which Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart said can be mistaken or substituted for strangulation.
At this point, Little’s claim remains just that, a claim, until JPD confirms a link.
The FBI tells 3 On Your Side of the 90 killings Little claims to be behind, they’ve been able to corroborate 36.
“During the interview with him, he indicated that’s why God put him on Earth. God knew what he was going to do," said Marion County, Fla., detective Michael Mongeluzzo, who personally talked to Little about cold cases in the Sunshine State.
Now, law enforcement agencies across the country wait for their turn to try the man responsible for dozens of deaths.
“It could be a couple of years before we get him extradited back over here but at least we can cut the warrants to get him back over here to charge him for it," Peterson said. “The biggest thing we are looking of is closure for the victim’s families.”
Authorities in Tupelo hope to have Little’s confession to that killing before a grand jury next month for an indictment in that case.