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Samuel Little, most prolific serial killer in U.S. history, dies

Little, 80, confessed to over 90 murders and was serving multiple life sentences. He was pronounced dead Wednesday at a California hospital.
Samuel Little
Samuel Little listens as he is sentenced to three consecutive terms of life in prison without parole for murdering three women in the late 1980s, in a Los Angeles courtroom in 2014.Nick Ut / AP file

Samuel Little, a serial killer who confessed to more than 90 murders across the country and who was serving multiple life sentences in prison, died Wednesday at a hospital in California, officials said.

Little, 80, was pronounced dead at 4:53 a.m., the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

An official cause of death was not released and will be determined by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office, the corrections department said.

Foul play is not suspected in Little's death, said Dana Simas, spokesperson for the department. Corrections officials said he had been ill for some time.

Little was serving three life sentences without possibility of parole for killing three women in Los Angeles County in the 1980s.

But he confessed to many more killings that occurred all over the country, and the FBI named him the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history.

Little eventually confessed to strangling 93 women across the country between 1970 and 2005.

He was first convicted of killing the three women in Los Angeles County in 2014, two years after he was extradited to California on a narcotics charge and after DNA matched him to the old crime scenes, officials said.

Little lived a nomadic lifestyle and moved around a lot, and he targeted women who were involved in prostitution or drugs, the FBI has said. He was a former boxer who punched and strangled most of his victims, whose deaths were often ruled as overdoses or other causes, according to the FBI.

The confessions started in 2018 after Little was interviewed by Texas Ranger James Holland, who was looking for information about an unsolved murder in Odessa, according to the FBI. Little wanted to talk because he was hoping to move prisons.

“Over the course of that interview in May, he went through city and state and gave Ranger Holland the number of people he killed in each place. Jackson, Mississippi — one; Cincinnati, Ohio— one; Phoenix, Arizona — three; Las Vegas, Nevada — one," Christina Palazzolo, an FBI crime analyst who was present, has said.

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That set off a nationwide effort by officials to confirm that Little was responsible for the unsolved killings, which led to his indictment in old cases. Little even drew sketches of his victims.

In October 2019, FBI officials said they believed his confessions in all 93 killings were credible and that they had verified 50 of them.

The number of murders Little confessed to surpassed those of other notorious serial killers.

Gary Ridgway, dubbed the Green River Killer, was convicted of 49 murders and confessed to about 20 more. Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy each murdered upwards of 30 people, but Bundy was suspected of more.