Samuel Little, often referred to as America’s worst serial killer, died in prison on December 30, 2020, at age 80.
Little was serving three consecutive life-without-parole sentences in California after finally being caught and convicted of the deaths of three Los Angeles women in the late 1980s. The Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office has yet to determine the official cause of death, but Little had been suffering from diabetes, heart trouble and other ailments.
True crime buffs will be familiar with Little, known as “the Green River Killer” or “the Choke and Stroke Killer," as he was the subject of the Netflix documentary Catching A Serial Killer: Sam Little, which premiered on the streaming service in 2020. He targeted women, often of marginalized and vulnerable groups, many of whom were involved in prostitution or were suffering from drug addiction.
It wasn't until 2014 that he was convicted for the murder of the three women killed in the 1980s, meaning he was a free man for decades after his killing spree was taking place. Little stayed on the move during that time, as he made his way across the nation.
On September 2, 2014, Little, who was 74 at the time, was found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder. The jury came to their conclusion in under two hours.
The criminal was convicted of killing Carol Alford, 41, whose body was found in an alley in 1987; Audrey Nelson, 35, who was discovered in a dumpster in 1989; and Guadalupe Apodaca, 46, whose body was stored in a commercial garage, also in 1989.
According to reports, Little lured his victims with drugs and then strangled them, then dumping half-naked bodies in different locations.
Little murdered Alford shortly after he finished a two-year sentence for false imprisonment and felony assault, claims a report. The victim was found naked from the waist down, except for one sock, and injuries hinted that she was struck in the head. There were also drag marks near her body, leading police to believe that Little killed her elsewhere before placing her body in an alleyway.
Nelson's sister Sherri Ann attended the trial, reportedly sharing that her deceased sibling had a rebellious streak and was studying cosmetology before fleeing their home at 19. She was forced into prostitution while living in New York, but eventually moved back home to L.A., where her family was raising her daughter.
“I cannot imagine the horror that went through my sister’s mind when the defendant was choking her to death,” the former stated during the trial. “I loved my sister dearly and she did not deserve to have her life taken like this.”
“The reason why my mom was in Los Angeles in the first place is because she had gotten her life back on track and was on her way to reunite with me,” the victim's daughter Pearl reportedly added in court.
Apodaca's son Tony Zambrano, as well as her goddaughter Mary Louise Frias spoke face-to-face with Little in court. "You took something very dear to me," the latter stated. "You messed up big time. You hurt my mom."
Four years after his conviction, Little confessed to killing 93 women from the 1970s until 2005. While behind bars, Little talked about the murders with the FBI. He maliciously boasted about how he made the murders as “long and slow as possible,” claiming he would sometimes let the women slip in and out of consciousness.
According to the FBI, Little did remember “his victims and the killings in great details.” However, he was “less reliable when it comes to remembering dates.” When Little confessed to the 93 murders, he worked with the FBI and gave them sketches of his victims.
As of last year, officials have confirmed at least 50 of Little’s murder confessions. Little claimed to strangle all 93 of his victims. At the time, the victim’s bodies that were found were determined to be deaths by overdose or attributed to accidental or undetermined causes. Some of the 93 bodies have not been discovered.
The FBI has released the sketches and created a map with these confession locations. When first released, the information and details allowed for 50 cold homicide cases to be closed. The FBI is hoping that the details and these sketches will help other cold cases be closed as well.