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This story was updated at 5:24 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, with more information.

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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / In this March 19, 2019, staff file photo, a Georgia Bureau of Investigations's facial reconstruction sculpture of one of Samuel Little's unknown victims is shown at a joint news conference with the GBI and the Hamilton County District Attorney's Cold Case unit.

After a year of following up on leads and DNA testing, local law enforcement officials have a name for the woman who is believed to have died at the hands of one of the country's deadliest serial killers.

Patricia Parker is her name.

She is believed to have gone to a club on what was then Ninth Street — now known as East M.L. King Boulevard — in downtown Chattanooga one night in 1981. She left voluntarily with a man who agreed to give her a ride home.

That man would later be named the deadliest serial killer in U.S. history by the FBI.

About an hour later, according to his interview with investigators, the man, Samuel Little, dumped her body off Interstate 24 in North Georgia.

The woman remained unidentified until last year, after investigators turned to the media to ask the public for help identifying the woman.

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation forensic artist created a facial reconstruction and sketch of what investigators believe the woman looked like.

That same day, investigators say, they received a phone call from family members claiming to recognize the woman as Parker.

After vetting the information via photos and DNA tests, investigators say she has positively been identified.

Parker's family was notified of the confirmed identity Friday morning. Her son, who was just a child when his mother went missing, cried, authorities said.

"He felt like his mom had abandoned him and now he knows that she didn't," Joe Montgomery, special agent in charge with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said. "That's a lot to process."

Some investigators said they got the impression that he was hoping the woman wasn't his mother. He seemed to hope to one day reconnect, they said. But now he knows that won't be possible.

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Samuel Little, who often went by the name Samuel McDowell, leaves the Ector County Courthouse after attending a pre-trial hearing Monday, November 26, 2018, in Odessa, Texas. (Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP)

Little will not face charges in Hamilton County, as Parker left from the club voluntarily with him, according to investigators. The charges would stem from Dade County, Georgia, where her body was found.

But it's not clear what the next steps will be, as Little faces multiple life sentences in different states, and there are still multiple investigations into other killings to which he has confessed.

Little, now in his 80s, claims to have killed 93 people, nearly all women, between 1970 and 2005, according to the FBI. Police have verified at least 50 cases and many more are pending final confirmation.

Efforts to identify the victims have included news conferences in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Memphis and Savannah, Georgia, as investigators have asked the public to provide tips on missing people from decades ago.

Little is currently incarcerated in California after being convicted in 2014 when DNA evidence linked him to three California killings from the late 1980s.

Many of his victims were marginalized women, according to the FBI. Little has said he often knocked the women out with a punch and strangled them. With no bullet or stab wounds, some early investigations concluded the deaths were accidental or the results of overdoses.

After the FBI announced in November 2018 that Little confessed to killing a woman in the Chattanooga area, GBI Special Agent Steve Rogers Jr. and Mike Mathis, supervisor of the Hamilton County district attorney's cold case unit, traveled to Texas to meet with Little.

Rogers and Mathis, like many other investigators from across the country who have traveled to meet with Little, were hoping to pull together more information on their cold case.

He had a strong memory, they said. But he couldn't give them many details about the woman or the name of the club in which they met.

He described the woman as a light-skinned black woman with a large frame, in her early-to-mid-20s. He said he drove her to a secluded area, strangled her and rolled her body down an embankment, according to the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office.

With that information, investigators narrowed their search and set their eyes on a woman whose body was found off Interstate 24 in September 1981, near the exit into Wildwood, Georgia. Investigators estimated the woman had been dead for six months to a year by the time her remains were found.

They exhumed her remains from a pauper's grave in Dade County, and a GBI forensic artist created the facial reconstruction and sketch of what they believe the woman looked like.

Contact Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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READ MORE

Serial killer confesses to 1981 Dade County murder

Inmate who claimed to kill woman in Chattanooga named deadliest serial killer in U.S. history

Serial killer who claimed to kill Chattanooga woman indicted in 1984 slaying in Georgia

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Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / Joe Montgomery, second from right, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation discusses the search for the identity of one of Samuel Little's victims. Also pictured, from left, are Mike Mathis Supervisor of the Cold Case unit for the Hamilton County District Attorneys Office, Neal Pinkston Hamilton County District Attorney and Steve Roger Special Agent for the GBI. In the foreground is a facial reconstruction of the victim.
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