But the LA investigators wanted him on far more serious charges: The slayings of two women in 1989, both found strangled and nude below the waist — victims of what police concluded had been sexually motivated strangulations.
Police said Little’s name came up after DNA evidence collected at old crime scenes matched samples of his stored in a criminal database. After detectives say they found another match, a third murder charge was added against Little.
Now, as the 72-year-old former boxer and transient awaits trial in Los Angeles, authorities in numerous jurisdictions in California, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and Ohio are scouring their own cold case files for possible ties to Little. One old murder case, in Pascagoula, Miss., already has been reopened. DNA results are pending in others.
Little’s more than 100-page rap sheet details crimes in 24 states spread over 56 years — mostly assault, burglary, armed robbery, shoplifting and drug violations. In that time, authorities say incredulously, he served less than 10 years in prison.
But Los Angeles detectives allege he was also a serial killer, who traveled the country preying on prostitutes, drug addicts and troubled women.
Their investigation has turned up a number of cases in which he was a suspect or convicted. Police are using those old cases — and tracking down surviving victims — to help build cases against Little.
“We see a pattern, and the pattern matches what he’s got away with in the past,” said LAPD Detective Mitzi Roberts.
Little has pleaded not guilty in the three LA slayings, and in interviews with detectives after his September arrest he described his police record as “dismissed, not guilty, dismissed.”
“I just be in the wrong place at the wrong time with people,” he said.
“It’s the craziest rap sheet I’ve ever seen,” said Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman, who has worked many serial killer cold cases. “The fact that he hasn’t spent a more significant period of his life (in custody) is a shocking thing. He’s gotten break after break after break.”
Deputy Public Defender Michael Pentz, who represents Little, declined to comment.
Authorities have pieced together a 24-page timeline tracking Little’s activity across the country since his birth. His rap sheet has helped them pinpoint his location sometimes on a monthly basis. Law enforcement agencies are now cross-referencing that timeline with cold case slayings in their states.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is leading a review of that state’s unsolved murders and helping coordinate the effort among 12 jurisdictions. The department alerted authorities in Florida, Alabama and Georgia about Little’s case, noting he lived in the area in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
“We strongly encouraged them to look at any unresolved homicides that they had during those time frames and then consider him as a potential suspect,” said Special Agent Supervisor Jeff Fortier.
TIMELINE OF WHEREABOUTS of suspected strangler Samuel Little: Authorities pieced together a 24-page timeline that tracks the accused killer’s activity across the U.S. since his birth.
- June 7, 1940: Samuel Little is born in Reynolds, Ga.
- Nov. 29, 1956: Little is arrested for burglary in Omaha, Neb.
- 1957-1975: Little is arrested by police 26 times in 11 states including Ohio, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Arizona, Illinois and Georgia. Charges included shoplifting, theft, assault, rape, aggravated assault on a police officer, DUI, fraud, breaking and entering, and solicitation of a prostitute.
- December 1976: Little is convicted of assaulting Pamela Kay Smith in Sunset Hills, Mo., with the intent to ravish-rape and is sentenced to three months in county jail.
- November 1982: Little is arrested for shoplifting in Pascagoula and police realize he matches the description of the suspect in a slaying. Little is charged with murder and the aggravated assaults of two other prostitutes, but a grand jury does not indict. He is extradited to Florida to face charges in another slaying.
- January 1984: A Florida jury acquits Little of murder.
- October 1984: San Diego police officers find Little with a woman who accuses him of attacking her. He is arrested and charged in that assault and one a month earlier also in San Diego. Little is tried for attempted murder in the cases, but the jury deadlocks. He pleads guilty to assault and false imprisonment and serves 2.5 years.
- Feb. 1, 1987: Little moves to Los Angeles.
- July 13, 1987: Carol Alford is found dead in an LA alley.
- Aug. 14, 1989: Audrey Nelson is found dead in a downtown LA trash bin.
- Sept. 3, 1989: Guadalupe Apodaca is found dead in a commercial garage in LA.
- 1990-2006: Little continues to encounter law enforcement in seven states for DUI, burglary, larceny and shoplifting, among other charges.
- 2007-2012: Little has about a dozen contacts with law enforcement officers, some of whom find an outstanding warrant but, because it was non-extraditable, let him go.
- January 2013: Little is charged with three counts of murder in Los Angeles County Superior Court. He remains in custody with no bail, pending trial. He has pleaded not guilty.