Samuel Little was a drifter who lacked a strong connection with any people or places. He had a tumultuous childhood, abandoned by his mother and raised by his grandmother. The only recurrent connection in his life was a longtime girlfriend, Jean, who died.
Little was born June 7, 1940 in Reynolds, Georgia, possibly in jail. He said his teenage mother – who was in a cycle of prostitution – abandoned him on the side of the road. He moved to Lorain, Ohio, where he was raised by a grandmother, according to New York Magazine.
The case is featured on Investigation Discovery’s Serial Killer Week in a four-hour special, “The 93 Victims of Samuel Little.” Part 1 airs at 9 p.m. EST Monday, August 31, 2020, and continues at 9 p.m. EST Tuesday, September 1, 2020.
His first crime was stealing a bicycle in 1956, and he was sent into juvenile detention at the Boys’ Industrial School in Lancaster, Ohio.
He dropped out of high school and lived a nomadic lifestyle, according to an FBI profile.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Little Was Abandoned By His Mother on the Side of a Dirt Road & Raised by his Grandma
Samuel Little was born to his mother when she was only a teenager. Authorities believe he may have been born in jail. His mother was a prostitute, and she may have given birth in custody, according to The New York Times.
Little told Journalist Jillian Lauren he was abandoned by his mother on the side of a dirt road after she gave birth as a teen. His grandmother raised him in Loraine, Ohio.
There, Little dropped out of high school and left home as a teen in the 1950s. He went on to travel from state to state, often covering wide swaths of the country in just a few days, according to an FBI profile.
“From the time Little dropped out of high school and left his Ohio home in the late 1950s, he lived a nomadic life,” the FBI reported. “[ViCAP Crime Analyst Christina] Palazzolo and [Department of Justice senior policy adviser and ViCAP liaison Angela] Williamson said he would shoplift and steal in a city or town to gather the money to buy alcohol and drugs, but never stayed in one place for long. He would drive from New Jersey to California in a matter of days, reports Palazzolo, and when he had his many run-ins with police, they often just wanted to shoo him out of town.”
2. Samuel Little’s Mother Was a ‘Lady of the Night’ & His Targets Were Prostitutes
Samuel Little told authorities his mother was “a lady of the night,” or a prostitute, according to the New York Times. Officials believe Little may have been born in jail while his mother was in custody.
“But many other details about his childhood are unclear, although investigators said he may have been born in jail during one of his mother’s arrests. He was raised mostly by one of his grandmothers in Ohio,” the New York Times reported.
Many of the women Little targeted were prostitutes. Police in Los Angeles called him “The Choke-and-Stroke Killer,” because he would often strangle women while masturbating.
“Because killing was synonymous with sex for him, Little said he made the encounters as ‘long and slow as possible,’ often letting his victims repeatedly regain consciousness,” Journalist Jillian Lauren wrote in a profile of Little for New York Magazine, published December 24, 2018.
3. His Long-term Girlfriend, Jean, Supported Them by Shoplifting
One of the only recurrent people in Little’s life story was Jean, his longtime girlfriend, who died. She would follow him in his travels, and he sometimes lived with her in Los Angeles, according to a profile in New York Magazine.
She died of a brain aneurysm in the mid to late 1980s, and Little had beaten her in the past, according to testimony reported in the Los Angeles Times. Jean was described as an older woman. He had been spotted multiple times with a woman who appeared to be in her 70s in southern states. Authorities did not believe she was an accomplice in the murders, although she was probably aware of them. She often cleaned his car, which was often the location Little would kill his victims.
“Though he did not describe her as an accomplice to the killings, [Pascagoula police Lt. Darren] Versiga said she probably was aware of Little’s actions since she often cleaned his car, which he sometimes used as a killing ground,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “She died of an aneurysm in the mid-to-late 1980s, according to Versiga, who said Little had been accused of beating her as well.”
4. Little Was Once Married & Had 2 Long-term Girlfriends
According to the Los Angeles Times, Little was married once and had two long-term girlfriends who followed him in his cross-country travels.
“Little said he had been married once and had two longtime girlfriends who had followed him on the travels,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “He never killed anyone he loved and had made a conscious effort not to look at their necks.”
Little, who strangled women to death, was often triggered by a woman’s neck. In a 2018 profile published in New York Magazine, he talked about a little girl with ringlet curls who touched her neck.
“I’d seen this terrifying rage rise in Little only once,” Journalist Jillian Lauren wrote in the profile. “He was telling me about a little girl with red ringlets in his third-grade class who had stared at him with wide green eyes and touched her neck. Not even he knew it yet, but somehow she sensed it was his weakness and she’d taunted him.”
His first kill started with a woman touching her neck.
“She was a big ol’ blonde,” Little told Lauren. “Round about turn of the New Year, 1969 to 1970. Miami. Coconut Grove. She was a ho.” Then he corrected himself: “A prostitute. She was sitting at a restaurant booth, red leather, real nice. She crossed them big legs in her fishnet stockings and touched her neck. It was my sign. From God.”
5. Little Claims He Is Related to Malcolm X, & His Immediate Family Called Him Sammy
Samuel Little has few connections to his family line, but he claims that Malcolm X is a part of his ancestry.
“We talked that first day about our childhoods, about my kids, about his family tree, which he claimed includes Malcolm X,” Journalist Jillian Lauren wrote for New York Magazine. “We talked about his teenage mother abandoning him as an infant by the side of a dirt road. We talked about his late long-term girlfriend, Jean, who’d been a master shoplifter and supported them that way for years. We talked about how he liked to travel. We talked about his art. He had learned to draw during his first prison stay — three years for robbing a furniture store in Ohio in his 20s — and it was still his preferred pastime.”
One connection to his family line was his childhood nickname, Sammy. Texas Ranger James Holland decided to call him “Sammy” when he was trying to build a rapport with the serial killer and elicit a confession. Little hadn’t heard the name in years, but he accepted it.
“They agreed to be ‘Sammy’ and ‘Jimmy,’ even though Little insisted no one had called him Sammy but his immediate family; Holland assured him no man had called him Jimmy, ever,” Lauren wrote.
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