Samuel Little, who surpassed even such lethal predators as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy to become the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history while going undetected for decades, died at a Los Angeles-area hospital Wednesday, California corrections officials said. He was 80.
No cause of death had yet been determined for Little, who had been serving a life sentence at a state prison in Los Angeles County since 2014 for the murders of three women in South Los Angeles during the 1980s.
There was no sign of foul play in connection with Little's death, Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said in an email Wednesday night. The Associated Press reported that Little had diabetes, heart trouble and other unspecified ailments.
Little had confessed to having committed 93 murders between 1970 and 2005, at least 50 of which have been verified by law enforcement officers, the FBI said. He had been convicted of at least eight murders, some of which were solved using DNA analysis.
In 2018, Little confessed to killing a Chattanooga woman and leaving her body in Dade County, Ga. The woman was later identified in October 2020 to be Patricia Parker.
Many of Little's victims were marginalized, young Black women who were estranged from their families and struggling with poverty and addiction. In many cases, their deaths did not draw the same level of attention or outrage as other killings.
Only in recent years did Little confess to the killings from a prison cell in California, his third stint in a state prison. He said that he had strangled his victims, many whose deaths had originally been ruled overdoses or attributed to accidental or undetermined causes, the FBI said. The recounting of his crimes came after a Texas Ranger seeking information approached Little.
Last year, the FBI formally declared Little the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history and sought the public's assistance in connecting him to dozens of murders to which he had confessed.
The FBI posted a series of chilling confessional videos featuring Little on its website, along with sketches of his victims. The agency said at the time that it believed all of his confessions were credible.
"For many years, Samuel Little believed he would not be caught because he thought no one was accounting for his victims," Christie Palazzolo, a crime analyst with the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, said at the time. "Even though he is already in prison, the FBI believes it is important to seek justice for each victim — to close every case possible."
In one of the videos, Little became visibly excited as he discussed the killings. Asked by a detective about a woman he said he had killed in North Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1994, Little responded: "Oh, man, I loved her. I forget her name. Oh, yeah. I think it was Ruth."
Before Little's death, prosecutors had been weighing whether to charge him with the many killings in at least 14 states that he had described to the authorities.
The number of murders to which Little confessed substantially surpassed those of well-known serial killers.
Gary Ridgway, known as the Green River killer, was convicted of 49 murders in Washington state during the 1980s and 1990s, the highest number of murder convictions for an American serial killer.
Bundy had been connected to the slayings of as many as 36 young women before he was executed in 1989.
Gacy, convicted of the sex-related killings of 33 young men and boys, was put to death by lethal injection in 1994.